One of the reliable sources to know what happened on 8 October 1950 is from eyewitnesses. 28 eyewitnesses from the three villages told their story of what they experienced on that Sunday afternoon. They were between 6-21 years old then the tsunami happened (71-86 years old when interviewed).
The interview of the eyewitness was conducted individually and separately. During the interview, each eyewitness was asked to tell with their own words what they remember on that day. The interview was conducted in the Indonesian language mixed with their local language. After they told their stories, the interviewee asked some questions to better understand, clarify, and to confirm their story. The length of the interview was between 40-70 minutes and recorded in a video with their consent.
The story of these eyewitnesses is compiled in the booklet “Air Turun Naik di Tiga Negeri” (Tsunami in Three Villages). The language has been adjusted to fit the general audience readers. The videos available on this website also has been edited and shortened by eliminating repeating and irrelevant information.
Summary of the Eyewitness Story
In Hative Kecil and Galala village, the eyewitnesses also said that they felt the earthquake on Sunday, 8 October 1950 around noon. The people had just returned from church and about to have lunch. The children were getting ready for Sunday school. “They felt the strong shaking” (EN).
Most of the eyewitnesses said they heard a loud and roaring sound (NM; EB; KT; MD; HT; HP; EN; FB; WJP; EK; WJ) – “I heard the loud roaring sound as if there are a lot of tractors” (NM). “At that time it sounded like tanks (EB). “The roaring sound is like an airplane, very fast” (MD).
Two witnesses said they saw the water recede after the earthquake (NM; MD) – the sea looked shallow even dry when the water coming to the houses seemed to be still standing, but as the water went back to the sea, it took everything” (NM). “We saw the water recede until Rumah Tiga (name of a place) then the water came in” (MD).
They also said there were three waves that hit Hative Kecil and Galala (NM; EB; HT; HP; EN; FB; WJP; EK) – ” there were three waves that came, the first wave was not too high, the second was the highest, the third was a bit lower. The destructive was the second one that caused all the houses to vanish” (NM). “I saw the first water quite high, taking all the houses back to the sea, the second wave brought the big boat to the coast, the third one made everything in the village gone (WJP). “There were three waves, one small, second big, and the third is the biggest. The wave was as tall as the coconut tree, it was like a flood but very strong. It took all the houses in Galala Village, I think there are only 4 houses left in Galala (EK). “All houses were destroyed and that remains here (Hative Kecil Village) only five houses (HP).
The witnesses also remembered the strength of the wave. The wave carried the Albatros Boat to the coast (NM – said belong to the Dutch; KT; JP; EN – said to belong to Japanese; FB; WJP). The wave took down the telephone pole about 80 meters off the beach (ZJ).
The wave height was about as high as a house (3-4 meters) – “The wave was as high as the coconut tree” (EK). “The wave height in Hative was as high as the roof of this house. I did not see the wave coming but the track of the wave can be seen on the remaining walls (KT).
The direction of the tsunami wave came from the west. “The water came from the west” (EN). According to a fisherman who was sailing, the wave came from in front of Waiame (name of a river in front of Galala) and moved towards Galala, then hit Hative Kecil, but the tsunami in Poka (place on the other side of the bay) was not big (EB). Other eyewitnesses said the water came from Tanjung Alang (HT). “The water was black just like mud” (HT). “The color of the sand became black because of the tsunami” (KT). “The water was a little black and a lot of sand here” (ZJ).
A little different than in Hutumuri Village where most of the people had evacuated to the hills and forest. Many of the people in Hative Kecil and Galala were still in their village when the tsunami struck, hearing people yelling as the water came in (NM; KT; MD; JP; EW; HT; HP; FB; WJP; AS; ZJ; EK; WJ).
They ran to the hills and stayed there until the water receded. They watched from the hill as the water inundated Galala and Hative Kecil – “from the hill we saw the houses just like match sticks floating on the water drifting away” (EN).
The water receded and became normal at 3:00 pm – “We were on the hills waiting for the water to calm down. We were there for about 3-4 hours” (HT). “We were there until early evening, then we saw people going down to look for anything which remained” (EW). “We were up there two to three hours, after that, some went down to look, we went down around 5:00 pm” (WJP).
Witnesses in Hative Kecil and Galala said they ran up to the cemetery which was located on higher ground (KT; MD; FB; AS; ZJ) – “We then ran to the hill above the new cemetery” (KT). “The rooftop and debris were brought to the foot of the cemetery” (ZJ). “My house was not damaged as the water only reached the bottom part of the cemetery” (AS).
There were no victims in Hative Kecil and Galala. Several witnesses shared the story of an old woman, Mama Dana, that got stuck on the mango tree (JP; EW; EN; FB; AS; WJ). Mr. Tyas Joseph was also mentioned as a victim but on different stories, one said he fell into a well (EN) and others said he has swept away into the sea (FB).
Another story that is very interesting was the experience of Enggelina Pieter (EP). At that time, she was 6 years old and was told by her parents to stay in the house and not to go out. Her parents went out to the forest for farming. When the tsunami wave came, she was in the house and stayed in the house although the water came into the house and swept all the furniture – “The water was about on my waist, I was still little at that time, the water was very strong and I was swimming. The water carried all the household furniture out of the house. I was able to hold on to a chair, if not I would have also been swept away. The water only reached my house and did not go further from my house. My parents came back late in the afternoon after all was calm.