During the 26 December 2004 “Boxing Day” Tsunami, Khao Lak was one of the regions hit hardest by the natural disaster. Thailand lived one of the darkest episodes in its history. The Police Boat 813 is a stark reminder of this tragedy.
2004 earthquake that caused the tsunami dragged the Police Boat 813 inland
The earthquake occurred in the Indian Ocean with an epicentre off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. It was the third-largest earthquake ever recorded. The entire planet vibrated as much as 10 mm and triggered earthquakes as far away as Alaska. A series of massive tsunami waves grew up to 30 m (100 ft) high once heading inland.
Police Boat 813 was at anchor
On that same day, the Police Boat 813 “Buretpadungkit” was at anchor about 1 nautical mile off the coast of Khao Lak. Her Royal Highness Ubonrat Rajakanya Siriwaddhana Phannawaddee was staying at the La Flora Resort with her daughters when the Andaman sea started to retract. Her son, the grandson of the King, was jet-skiing in front of Khao Lak at the time the tsunami hit.
Police Boat 813 is a monument to thousands of lives lost
Over 4000 locals, including the grandson of the King, and tourists lost their life but unofficial numbers top the 10,000, which include many undocumented Burmese workers that were not recognized and neglected by the government.
At that time Khao Lak was in development with resorts and restaurants under construction. Most of the beach resorts and restaurants were completely washed away by the tremendous force of nature.
When the tsunami hit Khao Lak, the Police Boat 813 ended up 2 kilometres inland, in Bang Niang, where it remains today as a stark reminder of the tragedy that happened that day.
Where is the Police Boat 813 now?
In Bang Niang, on Highway 4, across the afternoon market, you can spot the 813 Tsunami Memorial Park sign (see on Gmaps). Two decades later, for such a historical event of incredible magnitude, the memorial park is still quite underdeveloped. The boat is kept in good condition and maintained as a memorial, though there isn’t much else to do except for a small “International Tsunami Museum” (see on Gmaps).
The 813 Tsunami Memorial Park is free of charge, anyone can walk or drive in and pay their respect to the lives lost.
Every now and then, festivals are organised at the site for locals and tourists to enjoy. One such event is during Loi Krathong in November when people come together at the river to honour the spirits/goddess of the water.