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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 December, 2004, 13:43 GMT
Eyewitness: Patong salvage starts
Thousands of people have been e-mailing the BBC News website about their experiences during and after the chaos of the tsunami in Asia.

British visitor Keith Lambert, 31, described the clean-up operation in the Thai town of Patong as the community comes to terms with the devastation left by the tsunami waves.

A massive clean-up operation is under way in Patong which started yesterday.

Patong (photo: Keith Lambert)
Shop and bar owners have been trying to salvage what they can
Spent the afternoon down there once again, observing. There is no selective clearing as such - JCB and mobile CATs have been brought in along with a queue of dumpers. The streets are being bulldozed and everything is being scooped and skipped.

Very little can be saved. I spoke to a shop owner yesterday whose answer I think sums it all up - "I've lost everything. My shop, my car, it's all gone. Maybe I will be up and running again in two months, who knows."

Bodies were still being retrieved and will be today as well, as they were pumping out the basements and garages of malls and guesthouses. Police divers have been in there searching and retrieving those they found.

All the hotels and guest houses on the beachfront have been either severely damaged or destroyed. All the buildings, shops, stalls, beer bars and streets leading off the beach have been wiped out.

Patong (photo: Keith Lambert)
Cars were wrapped around trees, impaled on electricity posts, shoved through buildings and piled three deep on top of each other
Keith Lambert
All the owners were making valiant efforts to try and salvage something out of the mud. There have been hundreds of tons of sand and mud dumped into the town.

Cars were wrapped around trees, impaled on electricity posts, shoved through buildings and piled three deep on top of each other. Shops were gutted, with everything just being sucked out. Roads and walls were ripped up and deposited nowhere near where they should be.

The beachfront walls have just been sucked away, street lights twisted... the list goes on and on.

The day it happened, the earth tremors struck at 0800 Thai time, and the wave hit at 1000.


I arrived in Patong in the afternoon at around 1500 as the roads had been sealed off by the police, with access only granted to the emergency services.

The pictures give you an indication as to what I initially saw and describe more than words can say. Before the waves hit, there were hundreds of people on the beaches and around hotel pools, out on diving courses and trips, on jet skis, boats.

As yet, the proper death toll is unknown as a lot are still presumed missing. It could be that they have either fled the area and made their own way to other towns in the country, or they have failed to register with the refugee centre.

A rescue centre has been set up here in Phuket Town at the Provincial hall, with facilities for everything from consular information to free food and accommodation - a lot of which is being provided by the community here in Phuket, along with the army.

People here are all well and safe, though in a great degree of shock. I appreciate that it is now nearly three days after the event, but people are still coming in via helicopter and army transport from the surrounding areas and outlying islands.

The best thing people can do right now is sit tight - everything here is a waiting game, which is no consolation. But as things stand, everyone is working as hard and fast as they can to get things restored and a semblance of normality restored.


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