KHAO LAK, Thailand – We moved everything. People, gear, clothes, everything we own here in Thailand piled into four Toyota vans, not like you see in the states. Our new home is two and a half hours north of Patong Beach and Phuket Island (search), a place leveled by the tsunamis.
We are now in Khao Lak (search), an exclusive resort that sprung from the jungles along this picturesque mainland coast just in the last five years. Here the death is clear and the devastation spreads for miles on end.
The waves crashed ashore here up to 2 miles inland, and in some places the third story with an Asian-style pitched roof has been crushed. It remains so hard to explain the catastrophe to match the pictures.
Here, unlike Phuket where the damage was strictly right along the coast, there is rubble everywhere we look. Houses have disappeared by the thousands. Boats now sit in the middle of roads. In one instance a four-deck ferry that was torn in half hangs from a tree, its bow protruding into the roof of a shattered home. The back of the ferry is nowhere to be found.
Khao Lak suffered more than any other area. In the last five years this area had become a haven for five-star resorts, with numerous fishing villages mixed in. Now nothing remains standing but a few shells of what once was. This devastated seaside landscape extends for at least 60 miles north.
Yesterday I met some U.S. Army Special Forces (search) here on an advance mission to determine where to send American aid. They were joined by seven firefighters from Anchorage, Alaska, who raised $15,000 to come here and help in the recovery effort. Each day they have delivered food, supplies and even money to shopkeepers who have no goods, let alone shelves to stock with merchandise.
Our hotel is one of only two with any inhabitable rooms. Part of this resort, called the Marlin, is in ruins. Many people have died here and many others are missing.
This place is especially eerie at night, when we are out by the beach doing live shots. Here, the hotel has been destroyed. A tourist camera in pieces lies in front of me. Personal items are littered about and in the background I hear the gentle rush of the ocean as small waves come ashore. How things have changed here in just a short time.