While some fishermen pondered over how they were going to make a living after their boats and nets were trashed by the tsunami, some were smiling all the way. They were the few who had braved the warnings and went out to sea anyway and were richly rewarded. The tsunami not only washed up silt and debris. It also swept schools of royal pomfret (tau tay) closer to shore where they became easy pickings. The royal pomfret is prized for it smooth-textured flesh and could fetch up to RM40/kg. It is usually steamed whole with soy sauce. Two young fishermen in Pulau Betong earned nearly RM6,000 in one day?s work when they typically earned RM1000 only for the same amount of labour. This is like heaven sent in spite of the circumstances.
The calm sea of Teluk Kumbar 4 days after the tsunami.
At the Teluk Kumbar fishing village, the sea suddenly retreated. And then it came back rushing ferociously and unceasingly up the beach. There was no time to think but react on the most basic human instinct of fight or flight. She chose flight, with the angry advancing sea in hot pursuit behind her. It overtook her in no time. The debris and silt that got washed up by the waves made the escape treacherous and difficult. She ran into her house which was barely 50 meters from the shoreline at the highest tide. Sea water gushed into the house inundating anything and everything that was on its way. Fortunately the front wall of her house weakened the force of the waves. She escaped with no injury.
A mess of upturned boats and damaged nets at Pulau Betong
After the tsunami had taken almost all of their belongings came thieves who took the rest of it. There have been cases of boats, engines and nets that survived the devastating waves that went missing thereafter. While the victims of Pulau Betong were cleaning up their houses, busy salvaging their possessions and helping neighbours in this time of need, some ruthless people were taking the opportunity to steal from them. Those boats and fishing equipment were the only things left that could help them rebuild their lives and now that is gone too. My cousin?s husband had to move his boat further upriver to prevent that.