January 4, 2005

In the Grip

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From Peter Flach's gripping first-person account at the Belmont Lounge, a secondary site by Wretchard @ Belmont Club

At that moment I saw large amounts of water coming again and, no longer calm, I screamed "Run!" Lal was still engrossed in his mobile and I screamed, "Forget the mobile -- Run!" But when I looked ahead I could see water cascading over the track as far as the eye could see. "Hang on," I shouted and stopped to grip the rail in both hands. Lal was doing the same about 5 metres to my left. I watched the water swiftly rise up my arms, and let the bag go, with some regret, as it had all my valuables in it, but I wasn't going to jeopardise my safety for the sake of a bag. I looked across at Lal, but he had gone, and then I went.

A wall of water picked me up and flung me backwards into the edge of the jungle. I was rolled about underwater like a rag doll. You read about kittens going round in washing machines and that is what it felt like. I then broke surface and saw the jungle moving past at 30-40 mph. It was dense with a lot of trees and other vegetation. I stupidly tried to grab a palm frond but I was going far too fast and couldn't hold on.

Then I was sucked under and I swam desperately towards where I thought the surface was, but I was still being rolled around and buffed: I went through a tree or something that stripped my watch off my wrist. Holding my breath was now becoming a real issue and I let it out slowly to ease the longing to breathe, but then I saw light and did break the surface and took a gulp of air.

What I saw was frightening. I was still moving at about 30 miles an hour between some quite substantial coconut palms. From then on I kept my arms in front of my face if I was facing forward and behind my head when I was going backwards. I got sucked under again and I thought about something my first Headmaster at Hill House, Colonel Townend, had said. He wouldn't let his new boys, aged 5, do any lessons - French, Latin, Mathematics or anything - until they had learnt to swim. "You", he would say, "are your parent's most prized possessions and, if you fall into a river, those subjects will not save you, so you will not do any lessons until you can swim." We were then all taken off to Chelsea Town Hall Baths to learn to swim.

Once again I was at the absolute limit of holding my breath when, swimming as hard as I could, I finally got to the surface again. Things were now slowing up and I didn't get sucked under again. In fact, I began to look for something to stop my progress and selected a coconut palm up ahead with a trunk which was about 12 inches across. I lined it up and managed to hold on, although I have some pretty substantial bruises to show for it now. I was absolutely shattered, and the respite enabled me to get my breath back.

Until now, the problem had been that I was moving and had to avoid the trees. Now I was stationary, I had to avoid the logs and debris, which were moving. I knew that if something big hit me at that speed it would break my arm and then I would be in trouble, but I managed to keep my hands out of the way of the floating debris. I was behind the tree and the current was still strong, like a large river in flood. Behind me, I could see an area free of trees, probably once a field, and I reasoned that if I let myself be carried further back, it would be calmer, it might be shallower and I might even be able to find a roof to climb on. I waited for a decent log to come past, grabbed it, and let myself be swept across the water to the jungle beyond.

Then I saw houses.

Much, much more Here.

Posted by Vanderleun at January 4, 2005 4:54 PM
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