Friday, 26 December 2014

My memories of 10 years ago when the Tsunami hit South East Asia claiming 270,000 lives.

It was ten years ago today that the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake which was an undersea mega thrust earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on Sunday, 26 December 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake itself is known by the scientific community as the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake. The resulting tsunami was given various names, including the 2004 Indian Ocean.

Let me take you back 24 hours. It was Christmas day and the year was slowly coming to an end. It had been an exceptional year for me as 2004 started off with me hosting my radio show on Onda Cero International and ending up with me being the managing director of Radio Europe Mediterraneo better known as REM FM which I also owned 25% of the shares in. In short it was a dream comes true for me. I had never been happier although the year it’s self was a year of extremely hard work both on running the radio station and it seemed that every weekend I was hosting one charity event after another.

Christmas morning was always one of the highlights of my year when I would host a show I introduced 12 years prior called ‘Wish You Were Here’ where I would phone families throughout the world sending seasonal greeting from their families who lived in southern Spain it was a hugely popular show. No other English radio station had ever had such a high audience rating before or since. That same Christmas day as soon as my show was over, around 2pm, I immediately headed to ICE to host a charity Christmas lunch for Age Concern. About a week before that Christmas my wife Wendy asked could I please take some time off from my charity commitments as she or the children had hardly seen me over the last 6 months. I was tired anyway and readably agreed.

Boxing day 2004 I had agreed to give all my staff a well deserved day off and I too was delight with the prospect of hanging around the house In my scruffy track suit and slippers enjoying a day of doing absolutely nothing but reflect on the huge success my first attempt in launching and running a radio station.

It must of been about 9am that I switched on the television news and there it was none stop reporting on the devastation of the Tsunami, a word I had never heard of before but the world was to get to know as the horrors of this tidal wave griped us all. I was shocked as I saw the pictures on Sky News unfold and the requests for help, shelter, clothing, medicines that were urgently needed. I knew I had to do something. I immediately got dressed and headed to the studio. I interrupted the scheduled recorded programs to announce that a request had gone out on television for clothing, blankets , water and plastic sheeting for shelter etc. Knowing the generosity my audience over the years I was sure they would respond immediately, I wasn’t wrong! All day boxing day 2004 listeners began to arrive in the studio with clothing, blankets and boxes of bottled water etc etc. I had no idea how I was going to actually get everything to Sri Lanka that is until I got a call from Joy Butler Markham who said the she would help me ship out the collected items and that she was on her way to the studio immediately.

Joy with the children at the school in Sri Lanka that REM FM helped build.

Joy is an amazing person who is the founder of a charity foundation Manacare which she launched in 1994. They have built centers, and provides support, in countries around the world: South Africa, Omsk, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. In the end REM FMwe ended having two shipping containers the size of two small bungalows to send out to Sri Lanka!!! I continued to work with Joy who went out to visit the devastated areas in Sri Lanka reporting live on REM almost daily. It was all so upsetting. Joy had the ambition to rebuild a school that had been flattened by the Tsunami killing many of the pupils and teachers. Again with the help of the REM FM listeners and charity events I hosted we raised almost all the money needed to rebuild the school. REM's Mary Harbo then flew out to Sri Lanka to report on the progress of the rebuild . Ten years on Joy is still doing heroic work in helping rebuild the lives of so many young people devastated by that tidal wave and I hope in our own small way REM.FM also helped.

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