Tsunami – Caught On Camera Review: Wave Of Misery
TSUNAMI – CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Wednesday 30th December, Channel4, 9pm ALERT ME
How do you cope when an earthquake hits you? It’s probably not something you’ve thought about but, then again, not something you can ultimately prepare for.
The Tsunami of 2004, which claimed 250,000 lives across 14 countries, demonstrates the true force of this unstoppable oceanic monster.
Told through survivors’ own footage, this documentary is as close as one will get to experiencing the chilling events of Boxing Day that year. Filmed in three of the worst hit countries, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, the video and photos shown are not for the faint-hearted. As photographer from Banda Aceh (where the Tsunami claimed 90,000 lives alone) says, “It felt like the end of the world.”
A reflection of the Tsunami itself, the documentary starts off with an eery calm before heading towards the inevitable chaos. Stephan Kuhn films his family on a beach in Khao Lak, Thailand, singing, “That’s the perfect wave.” Stu Breisch, against footage of exotic fish and beautiful water says in inverted commas, “I was in Thailand for the scuba diving adventure of a life time.”
Andrew Stones captures his friends in a club, drunk and eyeing up Thai women. What’s most unnerving is the build-up to the disaster, which shows children singing “We wish you a merry Christmas” and Breisch claming that his son had a series of premonitions the night before of something terrible happening on the beach.
The Tsunami suddenly hits us in the second half, targeting Banda Aceh, Indonesia, first. Widari Dawam tells her story against shots of gigantic waves engulfing cars, homes and people. Scatted debris and legs covered in blood are unpleasant to watch but the hard reality of what she and hundreds of thousands had to contend with within minutes.
Frederik Bornsesland’s footage of his attempt to save an elderly couple who were swept under water is almost enough to make you switch off, closely followed by videos of Will and Amanda Robins struggle for survival on Koh Phi Phi Island. “It was like going around in a washing machine in pitch black,” he iterates.
Perhaps more disturbing is the aftermath, where we witness the trail of devastation left by the Tsunami. Survivors searching for their families, scatterings of dead bodies and masses of debris zoom in on and personalise the facts: deaths tolled at 167,000 in Indonesia, 34,000 in Sri Lanka and 8,000 in Thailand. Many were also reunited with family members, however, as shown in the last segment
While they accept how lucky they were to survive, many talk of a sense of guilt and reliving the nightmare daily. At the end of this documentary, you’re still not ‘in their shoes’, but ever-closer to sympathising with the experience that devastated countries and lives on the Christmas of 2004. Sensitive types might want to stick to news bulletins – this may give you an unnatural fear of water.