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The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
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February 2005 Vol. 31, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Tsunami Damage

Contents of this Issue:
All publicly available

Sunset Waters Beach Hotel

Thumbs Down

Moving Your Weights

Divers in the Tsunami

Tsunami Damage

Caught in the Wave

Hawaiian Tips

Dead Fish, Dying Reefs

Pre-Paid Diving

A Guide to the Coral Reefs of the Caribbean

Flotsam & Jetsam

Editorial Office:

Ben Davison

Publisher and Editor


3020 Bridgeway, Suite 102

Sausalito, CA 94965

Contact Ben

from the February, 2005 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

In the Maldives

Resort operators are saying that the Maldivesí peculiar geography, with its 1,190 tiny islands averaging only three feet above sea level, may have lessened the impact of the killer wave. Although the Maldivesí low height meant the tsunami completely inundated many islands, it also ensured that the wave didnít rise and break as it hit land.

Tourism is already back in operation in the Maldives, but keep in mind that, since most reports are unofficial and many of these places desperately need to resume receiving tourist revenue, there is a possibility of overly optimistic reports.

Estimates vary, but somewhere between 6 to 19 of the countryís 87 resorts have been badly damaged and have closed, although the remaining resorts are reported to be operational. The aftereffects of the tsunami should not be as severe in the Maldives as at some locations since, due to the resort islandsí flatness and sandy soil, the floodwater receded quickly. At this time, no diver deaths have been reported from the Maldives.

In Thailand

As with the Maldives, the main source of information is coming from the tourist offices and operators, so some caution is advised. While we continue to hear reports of some missing dive boats, we still have no specifics.

Itís still too early to access the final damage to Thailandís reefs. Some scientists predict there will be displaced fish populations as well as long-term damage from silt and sand, while other marine experts report the damage is not as severe as first expected. Even if the damage is minimal, things wonít be pristine for a while: when the giant waved ebbed, it pulled tons of debris onto the reefs immediately offshore. However, boatloads of volunteer divers are already at work in Phi Phi clearing the trash off the reef, and, since much of the infrastructure on the shore was wiped out by the 36-foot high wave slamming into the shoreline, the reef may actually get some relief from the pressures of development. The Minister of Environment is predicting that, to facilitate reef recovery, some areas may now be off limits to divers, and thereís even talk of making the whole island a preserve.

Much of Phuket Island was untouched by the tsunami and, according to the tourism authorities, more than 80% of the islandís hotel rooms are open for business. However, the proximity of the vacation resorts to some of the hardhit areas could render a trip problematic.

Some local divers and marine biologists are beginning to report on the state of the reefs off the coast of Thailand and Burma. Preliminary estimates are that 5% of the regionís reefs have been destroyed, 15% suffered slight to moderate damage, and 80% were unaffected. Some dive sites, such as Christmas Point and the Schnapper Alley reefs, which were at either end of a narrow stretch of water between two of the Similan Islands, are literally gone. Apparently, the tsunami funneled with such force between the islands that it literally blew the coral right off the seabed.

There are still no official statistics on the number of divers who perished in Thailand, but a Malaysian couple apparently died while diving in Emerald Cave, where 80 other divers had to be rescued after the wave caught them while they were diving there. Several dozen divers are still said to be unaccounted for around other islands.

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