GEORGE TOWN: Never having heard of a tsunami, M. Govindoo recalled standing and staring at the water subsiding as she stood at her son’s drink stall that fateful morning on Dec 26,2004, when the first wave hit the shore in Teluk Bahang.
“I was just standing at the stall by the seaside and serving drinks to tourists. I did not know what was going on but I did not think it would be serious enough to be afraid.
“I called my son who was heading to town to buy more coconuts for our stall. He told me to run to safety.
“At that moment I realised the wave had hit the hills nearby and was coming towards us I screamed at those by the beach and ran to the main road. As I reached the main road, the water reached my calves, ” the 82-year-old related during an interview at her house in Teluk Bahang.
That Boxing Day disaster claimed 52 lives in Penang, 12 in Kedah, two in Perak and one in Selangor.
Many of those who died in Penang were picnickers and children.
Govindoo, who was 67 back then, said she would not have moved away from the stall if her son had not told her to run.
“It is something I thought about sometimes. I was not afraid at all as I did not know such a thing was possible, ” she said.
Govindoo’s son S. Sivanathan, 54, said he ran the small stall from 1994 until a few years ago.
“It was a small stall under a big tree by the beach in Teluk Bahang. When the tsunami hit, we lost everything except for the cart as I had chained it to the tree.
“We did not lose much but it took me six months to recover and start over. The thought that my mother might have perished haunted me. Every year we give thanks and pray for those who lost their lives, ” he said.
Another victim, A. Suppiah, is still haunted by memories of the tsunami 15 years after it happened.
“I am reminded of it every other day and I pray every day that it would not recur.
“It is just daunting sometimes, knowing that the tsunami almost killed my daughter and that there could be other disasters in the future, ” he said.
His daughter Thulaashi was only 22 days old when the deadly tsunami hit the cafe along the Miami Beach shoreline.
She was sleeping on a mattress when a giant wave carried it out to sea, but a second wave brought it back 30 minutes later.
Suppiah, 70, said seeing his daughter every day is a blessing.