Former Channel Ten star turned Thai resort operator Rob Astbury writes:
I completely agree with your assessment of Fox’s coverage of the Tsunamis disaster, especially of Thailand.
I arrive in Phuket on 23rd December and stayed at a hotel located in hilly terrain about a ten minutes walk from the beach. On Boxing day I was woken soon after 9am by sirens followed by the sound of helicopters.
I quickly established that a tidal wave had hit the beach but I had no idea of the extent of the damage until I approached Beach Road. First, I saw water in the street some 500 metres from the ocean. Then I was confronted by wreckage of cars and motor bikes which became worse as I approached Beach road. But I really was not ready for what confronted me as I started to walk along Beach Road proper and along the beach that was littered with debris. There were people hanging from trees, bodies or unconscious people on roof tops and shops that looked like they had been hit by a cyclone. (I took the attached photos when I returned the next morning) It was total havoc. Shops that I knew well were almost unrecognisable. I was shocked by the devastation and literally sickened by the site of people walking through a smashed window of a gem store and helping themself to anything they found. Across the road people were walking over two bodies into a pharmacy and scooping up perfumes, creams etc into bags they had taken from a shop next door that sold travelling goods.
On reflection I now realize I was in total shock and felt very insecure. Instinct must have told me to return to my hotel. On the way I stopped at a hospital about 500 metres from the beach. I did not have a watch but it was now approximately 11am. Already there was utter chaos. In the large reception lobby at least fifty people were lying on the floor, most unattended. All were badly lacerated, many had broken limbs and other were either unconscious or dead. The hospital simply could not cope but still ambulances and other vehicles were continuosly bringing the injured and deceased to the hospital.
I arrived back at my hotel room and turned on the television. The hotel I was staying at did not have CNN which I am told was a far superior coverage to Fox. To their credit the BBC already had an uninterrupted coverage despite very little actual footage. They were relying mainly on maps, graphics and weather reports. I switched to Fox who continued to broadcast there advertised pre recorded Christams programs. After about two hours they interrupted their normal program with a news flash that appeared to be hastily presented from a regional station. I could be mistaken.
My instincts told me this was a catastrophe of major proportions and the death toll may be in the thousands, with certainly thousands injured and thousands more would unaccounted for. The BBC obviously recognised this and their coverage continued. Eventually they started showing new video. Quite some time later Fox began to cover what was already, in my estimation, a huge story.
During the next 48 hours I witnessed many incredible things, on the scene, at my hotel and later at the airport as I waited five hours to catch a plane back to Pattaya. The airport was packed and resembled a refugee camp. There were hundreds of people without pass ports, air tickets, luggage, credit cards and some without cash. I now realize they had lost everything and had no accommodation. Their only option was to wait at the airport for for their embassy to assist.
There are many other stories but I would prefer not to recall them at this stage, because, frankly I am still not ready to cope. But yes, I was disappointed and frustrated by Fox.