Tsunami warn­ing

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By EMMA WHIT­TAKER

ROZANA Lee isn’t sell­ing her work, or look­ing for crit­i­cal ac­claim – she only hopes Tsunami Hour will save lives.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is based on her own tragic ex­pe­ri­ence of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that killed hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple in­clud­ing her mother when it struck Asia.

‘‘When there is a warn­ing here in New Zealand peo­ple go to the beach and go swim­ming.

‘‘I think ‘ how stupid’, but I can un­der­stand be­cause if I hadn’t had this ex­pe­ri­ence I would also think ‘ oh it’s prob­a­bly noth­ing’ as well.’’

The Epsom res­i­dent’s home­town is in In­done­sia’s Aceh Prov­ince which is al­most at the epicentre of the nat­u­ral disas­ter.

She was in Sin­ga­pore at the time liv­ing with her hus­band and two chil­dren.

Her fa­ther Karimun and brother Rudy who were still in Aceh sur­vived, but her mother Rosna was killed.

Rosna, Rudy, and his wife Irene were at home when the 9.3 mag­ni­tude earth­quake that caused the tidal wave started.

‘‘No­body knew what was hap­pen­ing. It was an earth­quake so they thought they should get out­side.’’

Mrs Lee’s fam­ily stayed gath­ered in the street with their neigh­bours when the ground fi­nally stopped shak­ing af­ter 10 min­utes.

A grey wall of wa­ter ap­proached less than 30 min­utes later.

‘‘Peo­ple started shout­ing and then ev­ery­one started to run. They didn’t know what it was. You can’t out­run wa­ter, but it is hu­man na­ture.’’

The fam­ily was head­ing to a Mosque 500 me­tres from its home that saved the lives of hun­dreds be­cause it was on high ground.

Rosna, 63, couldn’t keep up so she and her son clung to a tree as the wa­ter rose.

‘‘My mum just said ‘let’s start pray­ing’. Then the wa­ter got higher, their hands lost grip, and swept away.’’

Irene and Rudy caught an­other tree, but Rosna dis­ap­peared.

Mrs Lee’s fa­ther Karimun saw the disas­ter un­fold from the beach.

‘‘He was with his friends and they saw this wave that was as high as the clouds. They didn’t know what it was, but luck­ily one was a fish­er­man and sensed some­thing was wrong.’’

The group piled into a van and drove to safety.



The first Mrs Lee heard of the event was on the tele­vi­sion news.

‘‘It was Boxing Day and we were all out shop­ping,’’ she says.

‘‘One of my broth­ers called and said there was an earth­quake, and I thought ‘that’s nor­mal’ – we have quite a lot of them there.

‘‘When we switched on the TV there was all this news about the tsunami, but no news about Aceh.’’

Mrs Lee reached Aceh three days later and searched for Rosna. Her mother is not recorded as one of the dead be­cause no body ws found.

‘‘Dur­ing the clean-up they used huge dig­gers to move the de­bris, there was no iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Many peo­ple were just dumped into mass graves.

‘‘She might have been swept into the ocean, or she might be in one of those graves.

‘‘I al­ways think maybe she was knocked un­con­scious and she can’t re­mem­ber who she is, and maybe she is alive.’’

Mrs Lee hopes Tsunami Hour will help Auck­lan­ders to take tsunami warn­ings more se­ri­ously.

‘‘My mother al­ways be­lieved if you can help peo­ple then you should.

‘‘If I can make peo­ple un­der­stand more through the ex­hi­bi­tion I think she would be happy, at least she wouldn’t have died in vain.

‘‘In Aceh they didn’t know what it was. There was no warn­ing.

‘‘If you un­der­stand what it is you have a much bet­ter chance of sur­vival. Min­utes mat­ter,’’ she says.

Mrs Lee moved to New Zealand with her Kiwi hus­band three years ago.

She says the tsunami made her re-eval­u­ate her life and was the cat­a­lyst for giv­ing up a 15-year ca­reer in bank­ing to paint full time.

‘‘I’d al­ways liked paint­ing and draw­ing, but in Asia peo­ple would say ‘ no, get a proper job’. Paint­ing has helped me a lot.

‘‘Th­ese are my mem­o­ries,’’ she says.


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