The man who survived two tsunamis: 'I feel as if my family is being chased'

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The Independent Online

Someone up there is looking after Zahrul Fuadi, who has survived two tsunamis that were among the worst natural disasters of the past century.

Mr Fuadi, from Indonesia's Aceh province, fled the Boxing Day tsunami that devastated several countries bordering the Indian Ocean in 2004.

He then moved to Sendai, in Japan, where he escaped unscathed from last week's massive earthquake and tidal wave.

Some people are comparing him to Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who lived through both of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"I have survived two monumental disasters," he told Agence France-Presse yesterday. "I'm very grateful. Not many people have experienced two big disasters and survived." A doctoral engineering student, Mr Fuadi was living in Simpang Mesra village, part of the Banda Aceh urban region, when a 9.1-magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island, followed by a series of giant tidal waves that engulfed everything in their wake.

"We were at my house when the quake happened," the 39-year-old recalled. "Me, my wife and my two children escaped from the tsunami by riding a motorcycle. We went very far from my house because we were so afraid."

Shortly after that disaster, which killed 168,000 people, Mr Fuadi and his family moved to Sendai. A faculty member at Syah Kuala University in Banda Aceh, he received a scholarship to complete his doctorate at Sendai's Tohoku University.

On Friday last week, he was attending a seminar in a three-storey university building when the 9-magnitude earthquake struck, triggering a tsunami that ravaged the north-east coast of Japan's main Honshu island.

Mr Fuadi said: "Although it's a two-year-old construction with a steel frame, I was still scared of it collapsing. 'What if it's a 10-magnitude quake?' I thought at the time."

Fortunately, there was no significant damage to the building. The three-storey dormitory building where his family lives was also intact. "There were only broken plates and scattered books inside," he said.

But he still feared a killer wave. "The tremor was very strong and similar to the earthquake in Aceh, Mr Fuadi said.

" I thought a tsunami was on the way. Actually, I'm more scared of tsunamis than earthquakes. I was running away from the Aceh tsunami back then and thinking that was the end of the world." In Sendai, though, he was safe, because the campus is 12 miles from the coast. "I feel as if my family and I are being chased by tsunamis from Aceh to Japan," he said.

Now in Aceh after returning to Indonesia on Tuesday, Mr Fuadi said he planned to return to Sendai to complete his studies. "But now it's the nuclear radiation that I'm afraid of," he said.

The Aceh and Japan quakes were two of the five largest tremors recorded since 1900. "Despite what has happened, my family and I have so much to thank God for," Mr Fuadi said. "We have survived two of the biggest natural disasters recorded in history."

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