Phuket Disaster Relief: Day 2 (Warning: graphic content)

I was hoping that if I let my them air out overnight, my clothes would stop smelling like dead people. No such luck; everything I had worn the day before was rank. Not just my clothes, but also the wallet and cell phone I had been carrying with me. Even the money I carried stank. A change of clothes would definitely be in order, and I gave serious thought to discarding yesterday

22 Comments so far

  1. Sean Bonner (unregistered) on January 12th, 2005 @ 1:58 am

    Another amazing story Paul. I don’t know how you are doing it.

  2. Paul (unregistered) on January 12th, 2005 @ 2:03 am

    Thanks, Sean. It was the ordeal itself that was amazing; writing about it is easy.

  3. lynn (unregistered) on January 12th, 2005 @ 2:43 am

    Amazing. Thanks again for writing, Paul. I look forward to your next entry.

  4. chrissy (unregistered) on January 12th, 2005 @ 4:26 am

    Hey Paul,
    I’ve been reading your stories and I just wanted to thank you. When I realized the scale of things, I wanted to give up my vacation in Tahoe and go help. There are definite roadblocks, though — I’ve never been out of the country before and I’ve got an extreme and illogical fear of disease.

    You and all the other volunteers are amazing. If any of you are ever in Los Angeles, please drop by my place and I’ll cook you up a nice warm meal. Seafood Gumbo, if that’s what you wish. My email is attached to this message.

    Also, do you have any local charities to suggest for donations? Thanks again.

  5. jenny (unregistered) on January 12th, 2005 @ 4:34 am

    Thank you so much for writing about this. I think a lot of people really have a need to hear personal stories about what is going on there. More than the 30-second snippets we hear on the news.

  6. Melissa (unregistered) on January 12th, 2005 @ 6:12 am

    Thanks, Paul. Once again, you bring the reality back into light much better than the news. What you are doing is incredible and amazing!

    The twisted humor is common to people who work in emergency/disaster response. I spent 6 yrs as a firefighter and mine is still skewed. Helped me deal with the immediate onslaught of emotions and stress. Still dealing with some issues from what I saw and did, but I am glad I did what I did.

  7. Carl (unregistered) on January 12th, 2005 @ 6:17 am

    This is an amazing post. Many thanks for your efforts and good works, and then posting your experiences for all to read. Very important moments in your life and the history of this enormous tragedy. I also have appreciated your photos, and would like to post more of your photos at my blog at This website actually forwards you to my blog at Blogspot, where I have posted some 100 images from the disaster, but I’m now running out, so please send me some new photos for my blog. Thank you.

    Carl Parkes

  8. Carl (unregistered) on January 12th, 2005 @ 6:24 am

    I just posted your Le Meridi`en images of their destroyed resort on Khao Lak in southern Thailand some 90 minutes north of Phuket.

  9. Carl (unregistered) on January 12th, 2005 @ 6:28 am

    My posts have been blocked by somebody who doesn’t want to see negative images of the tsunami devastation posted on my blog. I will keep trying.

  10. zee (unregistered) on January 12th, 2005 @ 12:41 pm

    Paul, thanks for your efforts and the time you have dedicated to help with the recovery efforts post this horrible tragedy. Also, thank you for your continued posting both of your experience. It has put so many things into yet new perspective for me.

    I send you and your fellow volunteers strength and good energy, and big hugs.

  11. Andy (unregistered) on January 12th, 2005 @ 11:19 pm

    I was there the same day you were (Jan 1), didn’t get to meet you, but thank you for capturing in words what we saw and did. We weren’t there nearly as long as you were, we only lasted a few hours in the morning; we were loading bodies into bags from the “liquid stew” in the pavillion. I appreciate your comments and hope you don’t mind if I quote you some. Especially poignant was your comment that the Tiger Balm, which we also used, was as useless against the smell as the bungalows were against the waves. We, too, couldn’t gid rid of the smell for a long time afterwards.

  12. syd888 (unregistered) on January 12th, 2005 @ 11:21 pm

    Paul, you write beautifully.

    I live in the U.S. and have never experienced anything remotely like this tragedy. Thank you for sharing a real and honest account of your service. Your words have moved me more than I can express.

    Thank you.

  13. nash (unregistered) on January 13th, 2005 @ 2:53 pm

    Thanks again, Paul. I’ve posted the link to your story to a local web board. People need to know this.

    And I agree with SYDSS, you write beautifully.

  14. Jadzia Imani (unregistered) on January 14th, 2005 @ 1:16 am

    Thank you for taking the time to post your insights. The fact that the internet carries your words instantly to interested partys, is truely awesome.

    Those who have read your posts are able to glean far more reality from them then from watching hours of media.

    I am wondering how long your ordeal will last, and are there enough volunteers that are willing to get dirty? The media will have us believe everything is being well taken care of.

  15. rio (unregistered) on January 14th, 2005 @ 3:13 am

    Amazing story

  16. Peter (unregistered) on January 14th, 2005 @ 4:58 pm


    I’d like to come and help – who do I get in touch with?


  17. whiterabbit (unregistered) on January 14th, 2005 @ 6:13 pm

    …I’m stunned at your amazing samaritan qualities and your selflessness. An article that would draw most sane people to tears…

  18. damizi (unregistered) on January 15th, 2005 @ 4:47 am

    It is a horrible story but excellently written. Reality and questions unanswered of things you don’t really want to know.
    What is there left to say after a story like this?

    Which watch should we buy?

  19. dave bennett (unregistered) on January 18th, 2005 @ 9:53 pm

    Words fail to describe how much admiration this story promotes. I am off to southern thialand in feb to find out what volunteer work remains for a nurse like me. I would like to think as you have, that one person can make a difference.

  20. Stephanie (unregistered) on January 19th, 2005 @ 3:41 am

    Thank you so much for telling your story. The first draft of history, I suppose. It’s important to remember that things like this happen, and that the pictures on the evening news and the photos in the morning paper can’t tell everything. I’m fairly new to journalism as a career, but its so frustrating when you want to describe scenes as horrible as this, so no one can deny they happened, but editors fear the public outrage that inevitably follows a truly realistic description. A thin line between detailed accuracy and voyeurism, I suppose. In my wanderings around the net, I’ve foudn this site, which may offer some helpful insights as far as witnessing traumatic things like what you’ve been describing. I hope it helps.
    The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma:

  21. Suzanne Bennett (unregistered) on January 19th, 2005 @ 8:16 pm

    Paul,does your group need any volunteers? My name is Suzanne, I have BA in Anthropology with a focus in Forensic Anthropology, and have experience in forensic odontology, osteology and body recovery. I also have experience interviewing and assisting people who are under considerable emotional stress, and organizing activities involving hundreds of people. I have also completed a semester long internship doing lab and fieldwork for the New Orleans Crime Lab. I am a tireless and amicable worker, am available for an extended period of work, and can leave immediately. I also have a valid passport and all the necessary vaccinations. Please let me know about any way that I could be of assistance, I have been trying to get solid information about helping out in this field since this started to no avail. I can be contacted at 001-504-914-1498 or at Thanks

  22. azmin hashimi (unregistered) on January 20th, 2005 @ 10:26 pm

    look what have we done????

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