Sunday, May 21, 2006

Matthijs Slot's Tsunami story

By Matthijs Slot, I wrote this in May 2006.

My bad time was on 2004 12 26, it was the day of the tsunami. We were on Chicken Island. My dad and I were on the beach and my bro, sis and mum were on the boat when a big wave came and lifted my mum’s boat up. The wave came and destroyed the boat and then it hit me and my dad. Before the wave, my dad and I were putting fishes that we found on the beach and we were putting them back to the sea. My dad was wondering why the fishes were there. On the 4th fish we put back, my dad and I saw this big wave, my dad said “run” but I did not run. My dad just read the book about tsunami, and he knew that something was wrong. I looked at the wave thinking it was wave like you see in Australia. Then it took my mum’s boat and maybe more boats and crashed and hit me and my dad. All I was doing was trying to get air. Whenever I looked out to the sea, I saw my dad rescuing these children. I was daydreaming, wondering what was happening. The next wave I saw my brother terribly injured, I helped him to safety. I pulled him by his arm, and another lady picked him up. Than another wave hit and I was taken back to the sea. Bastiaan, my brother was high enough. After that wave I managed to get to safety. While I was up to safety, I saw my mum and dad, looking for Vivian (my sister). I gave my mum and dad a big hug and my brother hugged my mum. Then they went back to find my sister. My sister was only 3 years old. A boat came two to three hours later. My Mum and Dad and brother and I went on a boat that brought us to another boat. But that boat did not go to the hospital. It did not move at all, it did not want to go because it was not getting paid for it. So then we had to wait in the sun for 4 hours, got a little bit of water like 50ml, because there were so many people that were there. Finally one hospital boat came and brought my mum, brother and me and some other people to the shore. The boat ride was 5 min. When we got to shore, a very unofficial car brought us to the hospital. My mum was brought to an operation room, where they had to take water out of my mum. My dad and my brother where separated so for 6 hours. I hated those hours. I was in the hospital waiting for my mum and dad. I was with my brother. My dad came when I was crying my eyes out because I did not see my sister anywhere. My dad brought my brother and me to the hotel Alis (we were staying at another hotel, my dad called them but they did not come to pick us up, and my dad said that we where in the tsunami, but they said “if you want to go to Alis, you must first pay” and then the Alis people got our language and brought it to Alis).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A near death experience
(By: Caroline Cammerfelt 1/2 2006)

We have just finished our dinner at the restaurant when we start talking to the waiter about a trip to an island the next morning. He had a boat and he was really happy when we asked him if he would like to drive us out at nine a clock next day.In this true story I will tell you about when I was In Thailand 26 December 2004.

Well I’m ready to go now I said when I had packed my things that I would have with me to the beach today. We were all ready but the time wasn’t nine a clock yet. We decided to go down to the restaurant and see if the waiter was ready to drive us out to Chicken Island.He was ready and he drove us out to a very nice island (Chicken Island). He said that he would pick us up at four thirty right here were he had dropt us of. We were the only family at the beach except for two other people how were sitting in the shadow. Me, my dad and my brother went snorkeling when my mom was reading her book. When we came up from the water, there were a lot of more people at the beach and I saw some more boats were coming in. I was looking for some nice shell when I heard that a lot of people were screaming and I looked towards the boats. I saw the water was gone and all of the boats were lying on just sand. Then I saw how swiftly flowing the water was and how helpless the people in the water were when they follow the swiftly flowing water out.

My mom and I looked over the beach and then we saw on the other side a boat how it was, stuck in the reef and then I heard something.I turned around when I heard some people scream and I then I saw how the horizon just raised up. It was the biggest wave I ever seen in my whole life.People got panicked and screamed and some asked what are we going to do the wave is coming against us. Then I heard a Swedish man screamed that we must run up to the hill if we’re going to survive. He was a tour leader (He was there whit his group on 10 people). Mom and dad took our things and we started running. My brother and my mom ran in front of me and I waited for my dad to start running but he just walked. Then I stood in the middle of the beach and didn’t know what to do, run up to mom and my brother or wait for dad. I screamed to dad to hurry up a million times when I started running. He was going fast after me but he stopped when he hade come up a little bit. I were now next until my mom and I screamed to my dad to come up. He first did when my mom begin to scream too. I can tell you that it didn’t took long before the wave came and if my dad haven’t came up to us he probably hadn’t survive. We ran up to the top and my dad was trying to calm me down when my mom was trying to get my little brother to say something. He was so shocked and just sitting on a stone and looked in front of him. It was many people that were screaming and crying we all was scared because we didn’t know what happened. It all happened so fast from that when the water just disappeared until the wave came it only had gone about ten minutes. It was one family we started taking to they had a girl named Lina how was in my age. We both were very scared and didn’t talk so much. My mom and her mom desire that we should eat dinner together when we came home to Sweden.My dad rang home to my grand parents when the time was five thirty Swedish time. - Hello, it’s me we’re fine we all are fine. Can you looked at BBC or something we must know what had happened, it just came a big wave and we are sitting on a hill. We are many people here sitting on the hill. But we are fine we are all fine, send me a message when you find out what’s going on. Someone was slowly going down to see what’s happened and I don’t remember so much but I know I began feeling really scared when people were screaming and when all moved longer up. It was a another wave coming, I cling to a tree. Lina and her mother Karin were hiding behind two stones. We didn’t know if the small little hill that we were sitting on was going to keep.They say that the second wave was bigger that the first one, but I don’t remember I just know that I was clinging to my little small tree and wanted it all to be over.My dad got a message from my grandfather: It has been an earthquake in Indonesian. I don’t really know how long we were sitting on that hill but I can tell for sure that it was at least four hours. The Swedish guide that I mention had made some phone call and there was a big boat just outside us and there was a speedboat that was going to transport us to it. But they made clear for us that it could only take 8 people at the time and we must hurry because there was another wave expected. I was first down from the hill; the only thing I had in mind was to get on that boat. Me my family, Lina, Olle and Karin were first transported to the big boat. When we got to the boat we put lifejackets on and take some water to drink. When everyone from the hill hade got on the big boat we got instruct to go inside the boat because they expected that a new wave would come. They first said that it would come at one o’clock and then three o’clock. I thought that they could just drive us in to Ao Nang (Where our hotel was).I didn’t want to be at that boat anymore, I didn’t want to be in Thailand anymore I just wanted to get home to Sweden. We were on that boat for four or five hours and we were all was tired and hungry we have some water we al shared and some cookies that the children on the boat get. My brother was sleeping for at least forty-five minutes and Lina and I was playing card just to get something other on mind. We was told that it would came a police boat and pick us up but only ten at the time and they would drive us so long as it could and then we would be transport by a little boat the last way. All I had in my mind was that we and Lina, Olle and Karin would go in the same boat in to the beach. But we didn’t they was transport before us but Karin made the driver clear that he would go right back and pick us up now. We never saw them again and we didn’t have a phone number so we couldn’t call them. Tree girls and their mothers were on the same boat as we, they only had bikini and passport and their money left. All there things were left at Phi Phi island where they lived, but they had heard that it wasn’t anything left there, al was gone. So we decided to help them to get somewhere to sleep and we ask at our hotel if it might be a room left. They could stay at the hotel as long as they wanted, and the hotelkeeper was so happy to se us and that we were all okay he said that they had been worried about us. We try to get something to eat but I couldn’t I wasn’t hungry and after that we get to the hotel and try to sleep. The next day we first went to eat breakfast but I couldn’t eat now either, all I saw was boat coming in with people who was hurt. We went to the restaurant were the boat driver worked, we wanted to know if he was still alive and give him some money that we owned him. We met him and he had only hurt his foot. He told us that he had seen the wave and he had put on a lifejacket on and jumped in the water. He said that he had a cousin in Sweden who was working on Mc Donald’s and when he maybe sometime would come top Sweden he would contact us. We went to the hotel and packed our things, we were going to the airport we had a plain to catch. The whole way home was terrible our plane from Bangkok to Munich was half full there were so many people who was hurt. But I was lucky I fell asleep so I didn’t have to see those people with opened wound I think it was horrible. When we at last landed In Munich the air stewardess told everyone who have been in Thailand to take a buss into a special hall were they checked everyone and gave clothes to them who haven’t got any. They took well care of us all, they even checked if it might be a plane that left earlier so we didn’t have to wait six hours. But when they fend out that the next plane to Sweden was that we already have seats on, they asked if we would like to go to the VIP lounge. I girl showed us were the room was and told the personal there that we should pick a plane in six hours and that she would follow us then. I started feel bad and got a real headache, my parents say that it probably was because I haven’t eat in nearly forty-eight hours. We got some food and just waited to the plane would come.When we came home to Sweden my grandfather was picking us up at the airport when my grandmothers were making us dinner at home. I was so happy to be home and I was so happy to see everybody. We eat meatballs and mashed potatoes and when we have eaten I just fall asleep in the couch. After a couple of weeks we tried to contact Lina, Olle and Karin to ask if they wanted to eat dinner with us now when we were home. The next Saturday they came home to us to eat dinner and when we were sitting and eating Karin just said: I searched for you on internet to fine a way to drive here, then I saw that we have the same name: Karin Elisabeth and guess what, when I was little my dad always called me Kajsa. We didn’t say anything at first but then my mom asked when she was born,In 1964 Karin answered.They were born in the same year and they hade the same names I thought that was unbelievable and they had meet on the smallest island under the biggest natural catastrophe in Asian. But that was not all. My mom asks Karin her date of birth. It was a long silence then she said: thirtieth of July I screamed it couldn’t be true it just couldn’t, they were born at the same day!Lina and I just stared at each other we couldn’t believe it, it couldn’t be true. We have spend a lot of time with Lina, Olle and Karin, I think that we have helped each other when it have been a hard time. It has been a really long way back and it has been hard. I mean at first I was so happy to be home that I didn’t realise what we have been through. But after a month or something when I started thinking I felt so bad and not only because what we had been through even because everyone seemed to have forgotten about it. I have no one to talk with except Lina and no one seemed to care. But I survived the hardest time and I think we have been through a lot of things and that we have a long way in front of us. The next step is a group that Lina and I would go and talk with students who were in Thailand and came home with everyone alive.

By: Caroline Cammerfelt 1/2 2006

Sunday, September 18, 2005

List of people near Chicken Island at the time of the Tsunami

We want to try and reach the people that were near Chicken Island at the time of the Tsunami, but we do not know their whereabouts.

If they want to know more about what happened to their loved ones, they may contact us. Some of us may be able to give some information.

We also want to know if anybody knows what happened in the fatal moments to the people we have lost.

Survivors stranded on Chicken Island:

  1. Charlie –boyfriend of Charlotte
  2. Ryan –boyfriend of Abi
  3. Tom –husband of Grethe
  4. Julie –daughter of Tom and Grethe
  5. Steven –husband of Helena
  6. Helena –wife of Steven
  7. Bastiaan –son (11) of Steven and Helena
  8. Matthijs –son (9) of Steven and Helena
  9. Judith –wife of Beat
  10. Annika – daughter (6) of Judith and Beat
  11. Selma – daughter (4) of Judith and Beat
  12. Stella - wife of Emmanuel and mother of Lily
  13. ‘Brazilian woman’
  14. Man, a bit bold (?), middle aged, heavy built
  15. Woman, his wife (?)
  16. Emelie – girlfriend of Daniel
  17. Boatman of Grethe, Tom, Jeppe and Julie
  18. Boatman 2
  19. (elsewhere on Chicken Island) Rory - Husband of Hannah

Rescued by boats that survived the wave:

  1. Grethe -wife Tom
  2. Pom -boatman of Steven’s family
  3. Daniel -Emelie’s boyfriend
  4. Abi -girlfriend Ryan
  5. Charlotte -girlfriend Charlie

Found dead:

  1. Girl (about 20 years old) who was given CPR in vain
  2. Thai boatman
  3. Emmanuel - husband of Stella and father of Lily
  4. Man who died/ was dead on the boat that evacuated us from Chicken Island
  5. Jeppe -son Grethe and Tom
  6. Vivian -daughter of Helena and Steven
  7. Hannah - wife of Rory


  1. Beat -husband Judith
  2. Lily - daughter of Stella and Emmanuel
  3. Husband of ‘Brazilian’ woman (?)
  4. Son (1) of English woman (ref story Charlotte)
  5. Son (2) of English woman (ref story Charlotte)
  6. Wife of and (English)man. (ref story Charlotte)

Not sure:

  1. very quiet Japanese man – (ref story Charlotte)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Der Tag, der unser Leben veränderte, von Judith

Scroll down for english. 26. Dezember 2004 (9 Uhr): Ein weiterer, wunderschöner Ferientag beginnt. Unsere Mädchen (Annika 6 Jahre und Selma 4 Jahre) freuen sich auf die Bootsfahrt. Beat konnte für heute das hoteleigene Longtail-Boot (inklusive Fahrer) chartern. Den Rucksack hat er bereits gepackt und ich kann mich darauf verlassen, dass alles drin ist, was wir heute brauchen, denn es soll ja ein relaxter Bade- und Beach-Tag werden an den wunderschönen Stränden der vorgelagerten Inseln.
Im Hotel werden wir abgeholt und müssen am Strand noch etwa 10 Minuten warten bis „unser“ Boot herantuckert. Das Meer ist heute unruhiger als sonst und unser Steuermann muss immer wieder Gegensteuer geben, damit wir den Kurs auf unser Ziel „Chicken Island“ halten können. Aber da es auch seit ein paar Tagen etwas windig ist und unser Thai-Führer alles sehr gut im Griff hat, beunruhigt das uns nicht im geringsten. Wir stoppen an der uns vom offenen Meer abgewandten Seite der Trauminsel. Dort spazieren wir 1Stunde und fühlen uns wie Robinson Crusoe. Wir fahren weiter und nach ca.5 Minuten sehen wir in einer kleinen Bucht, nicht weit vom felsigen Ufer entfernt, einige Leute schnorcheln. Beat meint:“ Du, dort ist es sicher schön, komm wir schauen mal!“. Unser Thai-Guide hat Mühe noch einen freien Platz an der roten Boje zu finden. Insgesamt befinden sich zu dieser Zeit etwa 7-8 Longtails und etwa 3-5 Speedboats hier im Wasser. Neben uns schwimmt ein kleines, blondes Mädchen (Vivian) im Wasser. Es trägt „Flügeli“. Ich entschliesse mich meinen Mädchen, trotz Gegenwehr, ebenfalls die „Flügeli“ anzuziehen. Es ist gegen 10.40 Uhr. Ich schaue mich um, wärenddessen Beat mit Annika und Selma die farbigen Fische und die Korallen bestaunen. Doch was ist das dort am Horizont? Ein feiner, weisser Streifen ist zu erkennen. Noch während ich studiere, hole ich instinktiv die Mädchen zurück ins Boot. Beat ist irgendwo am schnorcheln (ich habe ihm heute Morgen mit einem Riesencabaret die Tageslinsen montiert!!). Plötzlich kommt eine Unruhe, ja geradezu Panik, auf rings um mich herum. Motoren werden gestartet. Ich rufe wie wild nach Beat. Plötzlich sehe ich ihn. Er schaut mich fragend an, direkt rechts neben unserem Boot. Irgendwie habe ich realisiert was kommt und rufe:“ Achtung, eine riesige Welle!“ In diesem Moment überrollt uns eine haushohe Welle und ich bin mit mir alleine. „Wo sind die Kinder und wo ist mein Mann?“ Ich werde im Wasser hin und her geschleudert und es hört einfach nicht auf. Immer wieder denke ich: „Das überleben die Mädchen nicht, es ist vorbei!“ Das Wasser spült mich immer und immer wieder an die harten Felsen und es ist immer noch überall. Langsam aber sicher geht mir die Luft aus und ich denke ans Sterben. Plötzlich gibt es, nebst viel Felsen, auch noch 10 cm Luft. Die Zeit reicht um kurz nach Luft zu schnappen, bis mich ein neuer Schub Wasser wieder und wieder an die Felswand drückt. „Wo um Himmelswillen sind die Kinder?“
Erneut gibt es Luft, und es wird zunehmend mehr. „Jetzt“, denke ich, „hat jemand entschieden, dass du weiterlebst.“
Ich klammere mich, in einem Art Syphon, an der Felswand fest. Etwa 2 Meter unter mir sehe ich eine aufgewühlte, braune Brühe mit etwas Holz. Trotz riesiger Angst, was mich da draussen erwartet, lasse ich mich ins Wasser fallen ... und sehe nur Trümmer. Ich denke: „Das ist alles Wirklichkeit, ich muss etwas tun!“ Ich beginne immer lauter werdend zu rufen: „Annika, Beat, Selma!“ Ich komme mir vor wie eine Irre. Kein Mensch antwortet. Dann sehe ich am kleinen, steinigen Strand Leute stehen (ca. 3-4 Personen), aber ich erkenne niemanden von meiner Familie und rufe weiter.
Ich weiss nicht mehr genau, wie lange ich dort im Wasser gerufen habe. Ich weiss nur noch, dass plötzlich ein Longtail Boot da war und Leute mich an Bord zogen. Da sehe ich Steven Slot das erste Mal. Vom Boot aus schaue ich aufs Meer und glaube zu träumen. Annika winkt mir sich an einem Stück Holz klammernd zu. Jetzt packt mich ein neuer Lebenswille. Annika und ich bluten zwar beide überall, aber wir können alles bewegen und es scheint nichts gebrochen zu sein. Es hat auch zwei junge Leute an Bord, die Steven und ich zu reanimieren versuchen, aber noch während wir dies tun, realisiere ich, dass es zu spät ist. Annika und ich beginnen wieder nach Selma und Beat zu rufen. Wir wechseln auf ein inzwischen herangefahrenes Speedboat. Aber der Fahrer ist auch unter Zusicherung von Geld nicht bereit uns weitersuchen zu helfen. Er hat Angst vor einer neuen Flutwelle und schüttelt nur den Kopf, als Steven, Annika und ich ins Wasser steigen um ans Ufer zurück zu schwimmen. Auf dem Weg dorthin angle ich einen intakten, gelben Schwimmgurt aus dem Wasser. Damit versuche ich, jetzt an erhöhter Lage am Strand, Annikas Kopf einigermassen weich zu lagern. Jemand schreit mir zu. Es sind dieselben blonden Leute (Stevens Söhne und seine Frau Helena), die ich vorher vom Wasser aus gesehen hatte. Sie fragen, ob das meine Tochter sei. Erst jetzt sehe ich, dass etwas weiter rechts unser thailändischer Bootsführer ganz verstört auf einem Stein kauert und Selma im Arm hält. Schnell nehme ich sie in die Arme und kann es kaum fassen, dass ich sie lebend wiederfinde. Beide Kinder tragen keine „Flügeli“ mehr. Schnell bette ich sie eng zu Annika. Sie zittert und ich bekomme Stevens Shirt um es ihr anzuziehen. Sie ist ganz verwirrt und schaut mich mit grossen Augen an. Sie blutet ebenfalls an diversen Orten, aber es beruhigt mich etwas, dass ich äusserlich keine gravierenden Verletzungen erkennen kann. Ich habe nun nach vielem Suchen meine beiden Mädchen finden können, aber dass es ausgerechnet Beat unser Stärkster nicht schaffen sollte, lässt mich in diesen Minuten fast verzweifeln.
In meinem Kopf beginnt es sich langsam zu drehen und ich fühle mich zunehmend schlechter. Ich lege mich deshalb neben die Mädchen um einige Minuten auszuruhen, bevor ich weitersuche. Neben mir blutet eine Frau ziemlich stark am rechten Hinterkopf und ruft ständig nach Wasser. Wir haben alle starken Durst. Steven findet zwei angeschwemmte Wasserflaschen und wir teilen den Inhalt untereinander auf. Rechts von mir liegen noch eine jüngere Frau und ein Mann, die ich danach nicht mehr gesehen habe. Ebenfalls liegt da ein junger Mann, dessen Fuss schlimm aussieht. Insgesamt zähle ich 11 Personen.
Plötzlich ruft Steven vom Strand herauf, dass wir in Gruppen nach unten kommen sollen. Ein Schnellboot wartet ca. 20 Meter weiter draussen auf uns. Ein an ein Seil geknoteter Rettungsring zieht uns zum Boot hinaus. Zweimal steigen wir noch in ein anderes Boot um. Eines davon ist ein grösseres Ausflugsboot aus Phuket, auf dem sich hilfsbereite Schweizer befinden. Endlich am Festland angekommen und nach einer Fahrt von 20 Minuten in einem Pickup-Truck, treffen wir im Spital von Krabi ein. Auf dem Triagezettel, der Selma umgebunden wird, steht die Zeit: 14.15 Uhr.

Ich werde diesen Augenblick nie mehr vergessen als wir im abfahrenden Boot sassen und ohne unseren Beat in Richtung Festland fuhren! Bitte, vergesst ihn nicht, er hat so gut zu uns geschaut und war immer für uns da.

Judith mit Annika und Selma

The day that changed our lives, translated by Carla
26 December, 9 am: Another lovely day begins. Our girls Annika (six-year-old) and Selma (four-year-old) are looking forward to the boat trip. Beat was able to hire the long tail boat (with driver) from the hotel. Everything we need for our swim and beach day on the wonderful beaches of the offshore islands is packed in the rucksack.
We are picked up in the hotel and go to the beach where we have to wait ten minutes for our boat. Today the sea is not as calm as usual and our helmsman has a hard job to bring us to Chicken Island. Nevertheless we are not disturbed. We stop at the side of the island which is nearer to the mainland. We have a walk for one hour and feel like Robinson Crusoe. Then we go again on board of our boat. After five minutes we discover in a tiny bay with a rocky shore some people snorkelling. Beat says:” Look, that’s a nice place. Let us go there.” It isn’t easy for our driver to find a free buoy because there are already 7-8 long tail boats and 3-5 speedboats. Beside our boat a little blond girl (Vivian) is swimming. She wears water wings. I decide that my girls have to wear water wings too. It’s about 10.40 am. I’m looking around, meanwhile Beat, Annika and Selma are marvelling at the coloured fish and corals. Suddenly I see a small, white stripe on the horizon. I’m wondering what it can be and take the two girls into the boat. Beat is still snorkelling. All of a sudden there is some commotion between the Thai boat drivers. Engines are started up and boats are pulling away. I cry for Beat because I can’t see him. Suddenly I see him beside our boat. He looks at me. I cry: “Pay attention, a huge wave is coming!” At this moment the huge wave towers over us and I am alone. I think: “Where are the children and where is my husband?” I am hurled around in the water and it will not stop. I think that my girls won’t survive that. The water washes me again and again onto the rocks. I nearly have no breath anymore. I think that I will die. I manage to get some fresh air between the water and the rocks. Then another wave washes me against the rocks. “Where are the children?” Another time I manage to get some fresh air and I know that it is decided; I shall live on. I cling to a rock. About two meters below I see brown water and wood. I jump into the water. Everywhere is debris. I realize that I have to do something and cry: “Annika, Beat, Selma!” I feel like a fool. Nobody answers. Suddenly I see on a small rocky beach about four persons, but I don’t know anybody.
I don’t remember exactly how long I was shouting. But all of a sudden a long tail boat is there and they help me on board. Here, for the first time I meet Steven Slot. I look on the sea and discover Annika waving while clinging on a piece of wood. I have new will to live. Both, Annika and me, are bleeding but nothing is broken. On board Steven and me try to resuscitate two persons but it’s too late. Annika and me shout for Selma and Beat. Now we can change into a speedboat. Even though we offer money to the driver, he will not help us with the search for Beat because he is afraid of a new wave. That’s why Steven, Annika and me swim to the shore. While swimming I am able to catch a swim belt out of the water. On the beach I use this swim belt like a pillow to bed Annikas head on it. Meanwhile Steven’s sons and his wife Helena have found Selma in the arms of our Thai helmsman. I bring Selma to Annika. Selma is shivering. She gets Steven’s shirt. Selma is confused and looks at me with big eyes. She is bleeding but it seems that she isn’t seriously hurt. After all I have my two girls back but that Beat, the strongest of us, is still missed, makes me feel desperate.
I feel dizzy and bad. I lay down beside my girls. Beside me a woman is crying constantly for water. Everybody is thirsty. Steven finds two water bottles and we share the content. At my right side a young woman and a man are laying. Later I don’t meet them anymore. A young man whose foot is bad looking is there as well. We are eleven persons.
Suddenly, Steven is calling us to come down to the shore. A speedboat is waiting there for us about 20 meters away. With a safety ring we are pulled out one by one onto the boat. Twice we have to change the boat. One boat is an excursion boat from Phuket with helpful Swiss people on it. Finally on shore we get on a pick-up truck. Twenty minutes later we reach the Krabi hospital. On the tag which is laid around Selmas neck is written the time 02.15 pm.

I will never forget the moment when we were sitting on the boat and heading for the mainland without Beat. Please don’t forget him. He was such a good father and husband looking always after us.

Judith with Annika and Selma

Üsä liäbi Papi

Beat mit Selma


Annika, Dezember 2004

Annika und Selma

Pictures by Judith

Grethe`s story

We are a Danish Tsunami family of 4 , who went to Thailand on a 3-weeks dream-holiday, that 3 day´s before going home, turned into our lives worst disaster, as only 3 of us came home alive.

The Family members are Tom (44), Grethe (45), Julie (15) and Jeppe (10). We started our holiday in Northern Thailand for 2-week´s where we went trekking and river rafting and were supposed to enjoy the last week sunbathing and having a good time in Railey Bay close to Krabi.

On sunday the 26th we had planned to rent a long-tail boat and go to Chicken Island, where it was supposed to be nice to snorkel.

We got up early, went to buy some bread for the fish, and then we left at 9 o´clock in a long-tail boat heading for Chicken Island. Jeppe had been looking forward to this big day, as he had got a underwater camera for Christmas.

It was a beautiful day – sunshine, no wind, and lots of fish in the water. Our boat driver stopped the boat underneath/or right to the Chicken head of the island – there was like a small bay in the rocks. We were all alone on this spot, and we handfed the fish in the calm clear water.

I (Grethe) went up into our long-tail boat after snorkelling for 20 minutes. I sad and watched my family having a good time together, and kept an eye on them, because even if all are good at swimming, we have taught our kids, that you have to respect the sea. They joined me for 5 minutes to relax, and then they decided to snorkel a bit more before going ashore to have lunch.

Now more long-tail boats and speed boats joined us. The boat drivers threw ropes to each other to tie the boats together. They also jumped from boat to boat and jumped into the water, just having a good time together. I think I had 2 or 3 speedboats on my side – maybe 3 or 4 long-tails behind my boat. I saw many kids snorkelling together with adults.

All of a sudden, the speedboat in front of me started the engine. I saw Tom, Julie, and Jeppe were together placed about 3 metres in front of the speedboat – they had their back towards the sea. All of a sudden the speedboat startet to sail – as it was just about to hid an (for me unknown) boy or man Tom and Julie yelled at the boat driver to stop. Now I realised, that something was very wrong – I looked out on the sea, and I saw a tremendous big wall coming towards us – I did´nt know what it was, but I cried to Tom and the Kids to come up into the boat – but then it was already too late. A man or boy tried to climb up the ladder into my boat, but he never made it. I couldn´t reach him.

I remember my boat was pulled up on the side of the wave – I was almost hanging with my head downwards – as I then was thrown into the water, with the long-tail boat falling on top of me – everything got dark and I realised, that now the time had come, that I should die. Suddenly I saw light, and I reached the surface. I knew that here somebody could rescue me, because I remembered all the boats and people that where on the place. But oh my god, when I looked around me and there was nothing, but crashed wood, foam and sandals, I couldn´t even see one loneley person – then the next wave came.
I was banged down on the corals on the seabottom I was just thrown towards everything just like being a piece of paper in the water. I did´nt know if I was working my way up or down – the water was black, I was in panic, now I was going to swallow the water, because I HAD to breath – suddenly I saw light again – when I reached the surface I was banging my head into peaces of wood, I was wrapped into rope from the boats. It was just as if I had circled myself into this rope, and now my arms were locked to my body.

After some time (it cannot have been long time, because I do´nt have any feeling of time) I managed to get out of the rope, and then the next wave came. This time I was more calm, and relaxed – now I knew it was no good to fight against this wave. I do´nt remember if there were 3, 4 or 5 waves ,but when I once more reached the surface I got hold of a piece of wood. I was so exhausted and tired, that I just couldn´t manage one more wave, then I would die.

I hooked my arm onto the board, suddenly a man came to the surface close to me. I had the feeling he did´nt understand my English, I tried to make him understand, that he should hold on to my board in the other end. I managed to push the board over to him, and he held on to it – he was in a very bad shape.
All of a sudden I spotted a speedboat far out – I realised they were rescuing somebody. I tried to wave and call, but thought they would never see or hear me, as I couldn´t cry out loud, and I could hardly lift my arm. We were lucky they saw us. They came to us, and they dragged us up into the boat. I tried to tell them, that my family was out there, but there was no time.

I believe it was one of the speedboats that had been next to us while we were snorkelling. A boat driver had been rescued before me – he laid in the bottom of the boat with me. The guy that I had shared the board with was laying on a bench. He had many scratches on his body from the corals. I do not know what nationality he was, but maybe Italian or Southamerican he was about 30 years old – big build, had a big tattoo on one leg from knee to ankle, he also had a ring on his toe.
The passengers on board (there were many of them)gave us water, and tried to keep us awake – I remember especially an American/ English or Aussie guy, who cared a lot about us.
I could now feel my left ear was thorn into 2 pieces.

They tried hard to save the guy, that was laying on the bench.
All of a sudden I felt panic on the boat, we had to have lifejackets on, and it was hurting my back as hell. I believe a new wave was coming. Nothing happened thank God. We were taken to a riverbank somewhere in Ao Nang, I guess. Here we were placed underneath a tree in the shade and here we got wet clothes put on our bodies, which was relieving. All of a sudden somebody told me that the guy I was rescued with did´nt make it. I was so sorry.

From the riverbank we were transported by truck to Krabi hospital. I was sitting in the back together with a Swedish family of 4. Their teenage boy was laying on the floor, and the parents tried to keep him awake. I was sitting next to the thai boat driver, who was in deep shock, I tried to give him some water, because he did´nt seem be able to move his arms. Opposite me was a Japanese boy who was very quiet i think he was in shock, but in good shape.

When we arrived to the Krabi Hospital we were all taken care of. I think we were between the first maybe 50 tsunami victims, maybe it has been around 12 o´clock .After having had my ear stitched with 12 stitches, and I had all my wounds cleaned, my nose was double size and wounded, my ankle was cut, my left elbow had a big whole and my back was one big wound down the middle, and it was very sore. I was taken down for X-ray. Here the Swedish mom from the truck took nice care of me, while her teenage boy was x-rayed. She told me he was going to have an operation on his hips. I just wonder how this family is doing. I told her that I lost my family in Chicken Island, and I was sure, that they had died.

After x-ray ( and nothing broken) I was put in a bed on the Women Surgery ward no. 12. I was the first tsunami victim they saw here. All the Thai´s gathered around my bed. They just looked at me while I was crying. They couldn’t understand me, but they wanted to help. They brought me tissues and they were so nice and kind. After a lot of thinking and crying I decided to see if I was able to walk. Yes, I was weak and sore, but I would be able to go downstairs, and then just hope that I was not all alone in Thailand. (This was in the afternoon.). I managed to get all the needles from the drip out of my hand, and I went downstairs to the slaughter house. It was terrible with all these wounded people

In the first room I came to, I went to all the beds – I did´nt find anyone I knew, but in the next room (the arrival room) somebody screamed” mum, mum” in Danish, that was Tom and Julie. They were being stiched and treated here. But one was missing – our boy Jeppe, was´nt with them. They hoped, that he was with me. Tom and Julie had been rescued together with the Slot family and many more. Julie is sure, that they were 18 people rescued from the same place. She has written down all of them, and she even remembers how each person was injured.
Julie had been washed ashore where there was mud and rocks. She had rescued a little girl that had been washed ashore after her, and the last one coming up was Tom, who was very weak.

We went looking for Jeppe all day – one stayed in the casualty department to check all incoming injured and one went to the childrens ward. Jeppe was nowhere – we checked everywhere, it was terrible. A German volunteer named Gerhard, helped us to contact the Danish Embassy – they hardly knew about the disaster.

In the late evening an English girl volunteer, (I do´nt remember her name, but she was speaking on the loudspeaker outside the hospital) contacted me, and told me, that the body of a presumed Scandinavian boy had been brought in from Chicken Island. I went with her and a Thai nurse to the Hospital Mortuary. Here I found out for certain what I had feared, our Jeppe was dead – he had drowned she told me.

I walked back and told Tom and Julie, and now our lives turned in to be a disaster.

I was blaming myself, why couldn´t I take care of my little boy – 10 minutes before the wave hit, he was sitting next to me in the boat having a good time, then he decided to take the last two pictures that were left in his camera, and he jumped into the water. Maybe if he had still been in the boat he had been able to survive like me. No, I no, I could hardly take care of myself, but all the time I keep thinking, if we had done something different, but it doesn´t make any sence now. Many questions keep on coming up in my mind. Did he see the wave? Was he hit by the speed boat? did he suffer? did anyone see him? Who found him? And I do´nt even know if I wan´t an answer.

Gerhard (the German volunteer) now helped us to go to the Maritime Hotel where they had made a Hospital Center. Here we were taken good care of by doctors, who where flown in from Bangkok. Thai´s brought us clothes and food. Everybody were registrated of the authorities – dead and alive people. It was hard to get to a telephone, but the hotel manager was very nice to us, he lend his private phone to us, so we could get in touch with Denmark.

Our travel company C&C travel came to visit us from Bangkok. The Embassy couldn´t help us with anything, they were in chaos. A good Danish Friend who lives in Bangkok send us a message, that he would arrive in Krabi at 4 o´clock at night – he made a 14 hour drive with his Thai wife to come down and help us getting all the practical things done – That is a real FRIEND. The state we were in – panic, shock, sorrow, tiredness, – he was like send from heaven.

I went to the hospital with our friend got medicine and hospital papers made. Went to Krabi Morgue once more to identify Jeppe, and got the death certificate made. I will not tell you about the situation here, but it was horrible.
Back to the Hotel where a nurse told Tom to have an operation in his elbow because of inflammation – panic again. They wanted us to go to Bangkok Hospital. Our travel agent got us on the last flight this day (28th) to Bangkok.
Arrived at 2 o´clock in the morning and all 3 of us were once more going through a medical examination all night and we had to stay in the hospital. No operation, but they wanted to keep us here. The next evening we were released, after our friend had arrived again from 14 hours drive from Krabi. We went to sleep in Ambassador Hotel, and on the 30th we flew home carrying Jeppe on the same flight.

Thanks to our Travel agent and our friends Kurt and Jieb for Bangkok that we got home so soon.

Now we cannot cope with not seeing our boy again. We cannot enjoy our 3 week holiday memories, and we feel we can never get happy again, even if we have many good friends and colleagues who tries to help us and cheer us up.

Though we are very grateful that 3 of us got home, and we also thank the boat-drivers who saved our lives, all the volunteers, the Thais and the doctors and nurses for all the good they have done for us.

It is certainly not the last time we will go to Thailand. We will soon go back to Chicken Island for Jeppe´s memorial.

Jeppe we miss you so much, but we know you will take good care of Vivian in heaven. God bless you kids.

Julie’s story

The 26th of December I, Mom, Dad and my smaller brother Jeppe were going snorkelling. I and Jeppe had been very excited to go and see all the beautiful fish and we had bought some bread so we could hand feed them.
When we had been in the water for a while, all of a sudden there were panic in the different boats. I, Dad and Jeppe were in the water and a boat in front of us started the engine and the boat sailed over a man who also was in the water. Dad and I began to shout at the boatman what he was doing. Then I looked back and saw this enormous wave coming against us. I began to swim, but before I knew it I was dragged under the water. I was thrown around and I didn’t now what was up and what was down. Suddenly I got up to the surface and I thought it was over, but then I was dragged under again. When I the 2nd time got up to the surface I saw a lot of people around me screaming and yelling for help, but another wave came and then it all turned black again. Once more I got up to the surface and saw Bastiaan. (The boy of Steven Slot) He had a bad eye and also a very bad lip. He was holding on to a lifejacket and I managed to get over to him to hold on to it. Another, but smaller wave came and I held tight the lifejacket. Then once again I saw Bastiaan. Now he was about a meter away and I took his arm and dragged him to the lifejacket.
I don’t now what happened then, but suddenly I felt sand under my feet and I just ran, without knowing which way. I got up on land, where a man (I think it was Charlie or Ryan. Not the man with the cut up leg) gave me a lifejacket. A little girl, I think she was 3 or 4 years old, was
flushed up beside me and when I saw that she was about to get dragged back into the water, I just grabbed her bating suit and got her in safety. Soon after my father was flushed up a live and his body was very wounded. I was just so happy to see him. Now I was not alone.
All the people climbed up on some kind of muddy hill or muddy bank. There we were sitting and I am sure that we were 18 people, because I remember all faces. Then we sat there I think for about a half or one hour before we were saved by a speedboat. All were in shock and I was only thinking of my mother Grethe and my brother Jeppe. I was sure that they had been saved by another boat. I was just so happy that my Father Tom was there with me. We were in a lot of boats and a truck before we finally arrived to the hospital. When I saw all the people around the hospital I got very scared. What was going on? Something was totally wrong.
Later that day we found my mother, but we still missed Jeppe. At the same night we got the terrible and heartbreaking information: our son and brother had died in the big Tsunami waves. Later Mom told me that you Steven and Helena had lost your little girl Vivian. I went to talk with Helena and I found out that she was badly injured, but fortunately she made it. Mom and dad was bad wounded all over their bodies. Luckily I was in good health. I had not been thrown into rocks. Only some small scratches and bruises and a foot with one stitch.
The days after were hard. Not only because of the loss of our son and brother, but also physically.
We were lucky to get home so soon and also to get Jeppe with us. But we could not have done this without all the help we got from the Thai people. The world countries could learn a lot from these amazing, helpfulness and caring people. And this were definitely not the last time I was in Thailand.

Love from Julie to all the people who were on Chicken Island December the 26th.

My Tsunami Story - Ryan Kelly

If you have read some of the other stories posted on this site, you will know that I was on holiday with my girlfriend Abi and friends Charlie and Charlotte (who are also a couple). To avoid being repetitive I can just tell you that the events leading up to the Tsunami are exactly as Abi has described in her story.
My story starts at about 10:30am. I’m snorkelling in a rocky cove on the west side of the uninhabited island known as Chicken island. We are not alone, there are perhaps 3 speed boats (one of which is ours) and 4 long tail boats from various island tour groups. After about 15mins of snorkelling both Abi and Charlotte decided they would climb back onto the boat and no doubt soak up some of the beautiful sun.
Charlie and I are pretty much hypnotised by the beautiful scenes under the crystal water and the general peace and tranquillity that is surrounding us. From on board our speed boat someone tells us there are lots of fish at the front of the boat, so naturally we swim to the front of the boat. As promised there are what seems to be thousands of small tropical fish. In addition to the smaller fish, I notice a big beautiful parrot fish (about 18ins) swimming around the rocks about 6 - 7 m below us on the sea bed. It was when Charlie and I both surfaced to make noises of mutual appreciation and amazement at what we have seen that I first got a feeling that something was not quite right, the mood had changed from peace, tranquillity and happiness to unease and doubt. It’s hard to explain but there was a definite shift in the general mood and feeling all around.
My fears were instantly justified when one of the speedboats (ours) started to propel itself around so that it was pointing directly out to sea. In doing so the boat was pushing Charlie through the water and almost going over him. The fact that the propeller had been started while we were still in the water was totally out of character for the Thais so I knew something was wrong. In what was probably 5 - 10 seconds the commotion escalated and people on the boat began to shout for us to get back on board. At this point I still had no idea what was going on but panic was beginning to course through my body. At the same time a lady on a long-tail boat that was positioned between me and the shore started waving me frantically towards her and shouting “you can swim to me, quick quick, please you can swim to me”. Her face projected an image of absolute terror for whatever was behind me. I chanced a quick look over my shoulder to finally see what was responsible for this woman’s terror and the general commotion around me. What I could see in the distance (perhaps 50m away) filled me with a all encompassing fear that I hope I never feel again, although part of me feels it will always remain with me to some degree. It wasn’t so much a wave as a wall of water, dark blue in colour about 30feet high and at an angle of about 60degrees from horizontal. The wall of water was not breaking at the top like you would expect, instead it formed a perfect line along the horizon and just thundered towards me as one big mass.
Overcome with fear I turned and swam as fast as I could, swam for my life if you like towards the lady that had seconds before called me from the long-tail boat. I’m not far from the boat and I have added motivation so I reach the boat in seconds. As I reach the boat I think I make it just in time to place one had on the side when I feel myself being lifted up, turned around and then sucked under. As the force of the water turns me around I find myself for a split second at the foot of the wave looking up at its peak (imagine laying on the floor next to a two story house looking up to the crown of the roof). The last thing I see before I am sucked under is what looks like a speedboat going over my head.
The power of the water just held me under and threw me at the rocks like I was weightless. It was like being squeezed by a big fist whilst being spun around in a washing machine. I was totally disorientated and everything was very dark I couldn’t begin to swim against the wave, it was just too strong. Although I was without doubt being battered against the rocks, I felt no physical pain at. All could feel was an overwhelming feeling that I was drowning, I was powerless to do anything about it and I was completely out of breath. Not a second too soon and without any kind of warning I broke the surface. Whilst still being thrown around, I was at least able to suck in the much needed air and choke up unwanted sea water. At this point the water started to retreat back into the sea causing such a strong backwash that I just hung onto the rock face for dear life. There were then a few seconds of relative calm where I was able to hang on, find my footing and look around for the first time. I had been washed up against a vertical rock face that was about 40m high. The open sea was to my right and a small rocky bay was about 30m to my left.
I was totally confused, exhausted and in a state of utter disbelief. The beautiful calm crystal water had been replaced by foaming, brown, angry water. The long-tail boats that had once been our refuge were now to smashed into jagged pieces by the waves and were being washed around haphazardly. I could see people in the same state as me, just staring around completely bewildered. As I continued to look around I could see no in tact boats at all, and I immediately thought of Abi. At this stage I didn’t think that any boats had managed to get away, especially as the last thing I saw was a boat going over my head.
I suddenly spotted the 2nd wave about 25feet high charging in my direction so tried to climb to safety. The rock face was pretty much vertical and I was exhausted so I knew I couldn’t get high enough in time to escape the wave, so I just had to wait for it to hit me. I wouldn’t say I braced myself, but I do remember trying to keep my arms over my head to protect it. This happened a third time and again I couldn’t get high enough and to safety. After the 3rd wave I knew I couldn’t take any more. I knew that if there was a fourth wave it would be too much for me. Having coming so close to drowning 3 times, I knew I couldn’t handle a 4th . I nearly didn’t make it out of any of them. I don’t really know how I survived, I just tried to stay conscious for as long as I could in the hope that I would surface in time to breathe. Ultimately I think it comes down to luck. I don’t think it has much to do with how strong you are or how good a swimmer you. Better swimmers and stronger people than me died. There is no formula, we were all simply at the mercy of the water, totally powerless.
Thankfully the 3rd wave was the last really big wave (not that we knew this at the time). I somehow managed to literally drag myself up onto a ledge and out of the water. It was about this time that I saw I had some quite bad cuts on my leg. It didn’t hurt at this stage so I decided it would be best if I didn’t look at it. What I did do was look across to the rocky bay and see a few people gathering (most of them looked like zombies), one of whom was Charlie. I was so happy to see him. I think seeing him gave me the motivation to climb back into the sea and swim / stagger the 30m to the rocky bay.
When I got there, we climbed as high as we could up a muddy bank and sat under the trees with about 15 other people. I was surrounded by the bravest people I will ever meet. Most were injured, some very badly and I don’t think there was a person among us who at that stage wasn’t missing somebody and no doubt feared the worst, much as I did. None the less, people were trying to reassure me and I was trying to reassure others. By this time my leg was pumping blood and it was pretty much agony. I had tied some half-assed tourniquet around my knee to try to slow the flow and a young boy called Matthijs gave me his t-shirt to wrap around some of the wounds. I think in their own small way, people (injured or not) were trying to help others, even if all they could manage was a re-assuring smile - it was worth it. I think it gave me strength to see people acting so selflessly in such a unique situation. I know it will stay with me forever.

Thankfully Charlie was ok (other than lots of bruises and a cut finger) so he along with another man Steven Slot (who also seemed to be ok) set to work trying to salvage life jackets and water bottles and also get the attention of a passing boat, which after about 45mins they eventually did. People headed back down the slope and were being dragged out on a life ring and loaded onto the boat, two or three at a time. It was taking me a long time to literally drag myself on my backside down the muddy slope and across the rocks to the shoreline. Although I was in pain and exhausted I knew I would get to the rescue boat because Steven had simply said he wouldn’t leave me behind and I knew Charlie (who was on the boat) wouldn’t let it leave without me on it.
As I was being dragged out to the boat with a woman and her daughter, I started to look around and I saw what looked like coconuts bobbing up and down in the water. I quickly realised they weren’t coconuts so I looked away. I was scared of who I might see. I was laid out on the back of the speedboat on one of the bench seats next to the woman I was dragged in with and a dead body. In the last couple of minutes the gravity of the situation was weighing heavily on me and all I had I my mind as the boat pulled away was that I was leaving without my Abi. I cant begin to explain how that felt, I simply don’t have the words, but I know there are lots of people who will understand.
We took three boats to get back to shore and then a pick-up truck to the hospital. Thankfully Charlie was with me all the way and he looked after me all the way (for which I will always be grateful). When we reached the hospital I was x-rayed then stitched up without anaesthetic in what seemed to be the reception. Whilst I was being stitched up a girl I’d never met called Pippa came and took my hand and started to talk to me to try and distract my from the agony I was obviously in (I owe her a thanks but never saw her again). I was then wheeled into a ward and pumped full of morphine. It gets a little bit hazy for me at this point (obviously) but I know Charlie was happy that I was being looked after so he went to look for the girls. Via a network of phone calls back a forth with parents in England, Charlie got a message that the girls were ok and at our accommodation. I simply cant explain the relief. About 10mins later the girls ran into the ward and we were re-united. Once the emotions settled back to a reasonable level Abi, Charlie and Charlotte soon realised that other people needed their help. They helped them pretty much tirelessly. I think they all took turns sitting with me so for that I thank them and especially Abi who spent the next 4 week keeping me company whilst I was in hospital.
I think it was about 5or 6hrs between the first wave and being re-united with Abi. Its nothing compared to the agony and loss other people will have gone through, but on a personal level I saw things and experienced things that nobody should have to in their whole lives. There is no doubt that it will in some ways change me forever but I think the fact that it was a natural disaster makes it easier for me, there is no person to blame and there is nothing I could have done.
I can only really re-iterate what others have said about the Thai people being so kind. They gave their time love and even food to people from the other side of the planet, people they may never see again. They need our support so go there on holiday , it’s more beautiful than you can imagine.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Bastiaan Slot’s Tsunami story

I arrived in Thailand on the 17th December on Krabi airport. My family and I all went to a hotel called ALIS Hotel. We were all happy in Krabi for the first few days. On the day before Christmas we went on a Four Island trip (we went to four islands). And on every island we visited we were there for at least one hour… But not Chicken Island, it had the best coral reefs of all the other three islands we visited and we barely stayed there for half an hour. So we decided to visit Chicken Island again the next day for half a day.
This is when it all started… We hired a Long Tail boat at the shore at Ao Nang Beach. Then all five of us went to Chicken Island once more. We arrived there around ten ‘o’ clock and started snorkeling. There were many other boats on Chicken Island including a speed boat. After a while I started fishing with a bucket trying to catch a fish. I knew it was almost impossible but eventually I caught one. Other people on their boat saw me and my younger sister Vivian swimming together and they called my sister an angel of the water. A while later, it happened. My mother screamed at me to get on the boat me not knowing what was going on. My thought was that there was a shark or something on the loose trying to get me. I got on the boat thinking I was safe but I was wrong. I saw a fast wave coming towards me and the closer it came the bigger it became. I think the wave may have been around 10 meters high! Before it hit me I didn’t think, I just grabbed the metal bit connected to the boat, and then the wave picked our boat up and we landed right on top of another boat. I was tumbling under water with no breath in me at all. I hit something and it was silent, then I was hit again always thinking it was over but it continued. Finally I gasped a breath of air. I must have had a black out because I didn’t really remember what happened under water and the whole sea was brown from the sand, every tree, boat, even the speed boat was demolished. I tried to swim to shore and automatically I swam like a dog! But the waves continued, I was smashed to the rocks and the waves were even more powerful than the first because the water picked up the sand one although the first one was bigger. I screamed for help, it was my birthday in five days; I just didn’t want to die then. I prayed that my family would survive and yet I almost died. I saw some other people scratched and bruised all over the face and everywhere. I also saw my brother in the water, he was screaming for help too, but we were separated. I tried to hold onto a buoy because they always flout, but of course I got separated, the waves were just too powerful for me. But finally, after a long time the waves brought me to shore. The embarrassing bit about coming to shore is that I lost my pants in the water, but nobody cared. Other people helped me up telling me to go sit with the other boy and that boy was my brother! I ran as fast as my scarred legs could go and I hugged him more than ever before. We both just sat there and shouting for my family. Then another big wave came which managed to reach us all the way at the back of the beach. That started a rock slide right behind me. Now I had two problems, tumbling rocks and the tsunamis. We knew it wasn’t safe there anymore. I started climbing up the rocks as fast as I could, but then my leg and my arm were stuck between the tumbling rocks that fell. I shouted for help but nobody wanted to risk their own life to save another they don’t know. But then the waves helped me a bit by releasing the rocks my arm and leg were trapped in. I climbed as high as I could go and as far away as possible. Then I met Charlie and his friend. He helped me by giving me a lifejacket. He tried to cheer me up by saying I should believe that my family would survive the tsunami. In my head I was already thinking what would happen to me if my parents wouldn’t make it and I would become an orphan After a while I saw my mother approaching me and my brother, we screamed of joy, I lost my thought of being an orphan and just hugged her like mad. I couldn’t walk so she came to us. I asked her if she knew where my father, (Steven) was and my sister, (Vivian) was. She told me that my dad was coming, but my sister wasn’t found yet. Again I hugged my dad and said that I was so happy that he was alive. My father went back to the beach to look for my sister but I was scared that something would happen to him, but he insisted on going. He thought that the tsunamis were probably over but there were many after shocks after every wave. Many minutes later everybody was sitting where my family was sitting. We had nothing to do up there, we couldn’t sleep because of the cuts on us, it would hurt and that the leaves were rotten so we couldn’t lie down. So what I did was, I was showing off my cuts and bruises, and we were talking about what would happen if nothing happens. Finally a speed bout came to the rescue. It was hard climbing down the hill and when I came to the beach I was even afraid of the tiniest wave that I approached me. But I cooled down and cooperated to swim to the boat. I saw myself in the mirror and I couldn’t even recognize myself anymore! I had a swollen lip, four times the size of the lip I know have, cuts and bruises all over me, but I was lucky to be wearing a swim shirt so I got no wounds on my chest or back. My whole eye lid and the surrounding of my eye was purplish blue and I had a deep cut next to the mid left side if my face. We were then brought to another bigger ship where a lady gave me a pair of shorts, (finally). They gave my fresh water, towel and they treated me as if I was an angel. After that another boat came and that boat brought us to shore. At the shore we had no idea where we were and we were surrounded by camera people and photographers. Some native people carried us to a crappy little ambulance, and the driver drove crazy. I thought with this driver we were definitely going to die. Blood was dripping from other people, I kept on smelling stinky blood but finally we arrived at the hospital. We were put in wheelchairs and on moving beds. We were sent to an emergency room where nurses and doctors were helping other victims of the tsunami. First the nurses put stinging cream allover my scratches and cuts. They gave me four pain killer injections! They sowed 6 stitches on my face where the deep cut was on the mid left side, (four on the outside and two on the inside). They also sowed five stitches on the back of my head, (three on the outside and two on the inside). I hated injections, they were one of my worst fears, and yet, in the whole vacation I got six. After all the torture, there weren’t any beds left for me! So I got stuck with sleeping on the floor. The only problem with that was that the stitches on the back of my head were still sore so I couldn’t lie straight. I met many other people and told them this story and that Vivian was missing. I met new fiends and everybody treated me better than before. A few days later my Aunt from Croatia (my mum’s sister) and my uncle from Holland (dad’s brother) came to visit us because of this matter. I was so happy to see them. They cheered me up, gave me chocolate and even a cool hat! Many days past and my stitches and bruises started disappearing. I spent every night in the ALIS Hotel and it was hard to cope with getting into bed, because of all my wounds on my body and head. Every morning the ladies working at ALIS had to clean the mattress, sheets and everything because of the blood that spilt from my wounds during the night. But we all figure it out in the end. On the 31st December 2004, it was my birthday! I got a pizza dinner and everywhere I went I got a “happy birthday”, from them. Still everyday we went to my mother in the hospital. She couldn’t leave because of her collapsed lung. She got quite a few injections, and one operation. But eventually, she was released from the hospital and then we left Krabi on the 7th January 2005. Our stop after the plane flight was Croatia, it was sad to go there because I would have to go to my sister’s funeral, yes, my sister died it was terrible, I couldn’t stop crying but my family told me to be strong a face this. But every day I think of her, and I will never forget her. But I got to meet my other half of my family in Croatia. Everybody was at the funeral, my grand parents, uncle and aunts and many more relatives and friends and even people I’ve never seen in my life before! So that was my story of the tsunami, it was sad but we all survived… almost.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

My Tsunami Story - Abi


It was around 9.30pm on Christmas Eve when we met up with Charlie and Charlotte around their side of the bay in Ao Nang. Most people refer to Raleigh Beach as the prettier side where some nice little bars and hotels are set up high into the cliffs. We had a typical Thai-style twenty minute wait in a long-tail boat for the driver to fill it with as much ‘cargo’ as possible, ie tourists, but soon we were off and heading out into the black; our driver following the natural guide light from the brilliant white and perfectly rounded moon glaring out across the dark waters before us.

We soon pulled into the candlelit, music-filled bay and Charlie and Charlotte rushed over to greet us. We had really been looking forward to seeing them and to becoming that Christmas-silly-drunk that people always get around their fireplaces back home, let alone when they’re in a wonderful foreign country for the festive duration. We were like four big kids and more than anything it was so great to see people from dull, grey London transported 2000 miles over the other side of the world in such different, but beautiful surroundings. In our minds, we were trouble-free, aside from choosing which cocktail to drink, what food to eat and what day trips we might do over the Christmas period. Not a single negative thought, or the regard for the immense fragility of life could even begin to creep across our minds.

After a night of laughter and silliness and much planning for our future Thai island hops, a hot Christmas morning followed. By midday we were on the same long-tail boat trip as the night before, pounding through the same waters that were now a brilliant blue, mirroring the cloudless sky above. We had begun to think of this little ten minute trip like a daily bus route, only far less road rage, less pollution, less people and with far more glorious scenery. We met our pals once again for a much-needed day spent relaxing, sun-bathing, enjoying an unusual Christmas lunch and calling families to send love and best wishes, but mostly to gloat! Little else was important. The day seemed to pass by steadily and there was soon a cloudy haze settling across the sky. We had been in and out of the sea cooling-off but the stinging plankton was proving a bit annoying, especially on the unmentionables. I guess that was the only thing we could moan about, since everything else was so perfect. Still, it couldn’t keep us from our sea-bound game of Frisbee, which saw various ridiculous water stunts being carried out by each of us. Then it was decided we would stay over this side of Ao Nang for the evening and for dinner. We also decided to book ourselves a snorkelling trip for sometime in the next few days. After much deliberation of which tour to take, we chose Baracuda Tours’ 4 Island Snorkelling on Boxing Day, which coincidentally happened to be followed by a fairly wild and boozy beach party on Ton Sai bay in the evening. What a perfect end to a perfect day, we thought.

So, hangover-free from the night before (since we knew we had plenty of time for heavy drinking over the coming weeks), the four of us awoke on Boxing Day, fresh and ready for our snorkel trip. We were so looking forward to a day that should have been like any other happy holiday outing, but ended up being the worst and most frightening day of each of our four lives.
At 8am bouncing along the dusty road in the back of a pick up truck down to the seafront, Ryan and I mused that Christmas Day had felt pretty un-Christmassy and while it had still been a great day spent with our friends, we decided this year it wouldn’t really be like the Christmas we’re used to. But it didn’t matter, we wouldn’t try and force it to be. It was nice. It was different. After all, we said we would have other years with families, snow, presents, turkey and those classic over-indulgence snoozes in front of the TV. But the experience that followed at roughly 11 am that burning hot morning, would teach me not to be so frivolous with what the future holds, with what fate has in store. It was about as close as I’d ever like to get to my life disappearing before me, as quickly as a breath.

It was approaching 10.30am and we had already investigated the Phranang Caves and swam a rather long distance back to the beach that the four of us had slightly misjudged, but we enjoyed the challenge all the same. The driver pulled the15-man speedboat into the rocky bay of our second island stop in the trip, a beautiful place called Chicken Island - named so because the rocks form certain angles that resemble a chicken. Several other tours were also moored up here and there were about 60 or so people, a few long tail boats and another speedboat. We were all collected at one side of the island, swimming about, lounging on the boats and generally enjoying the peace and tranquillity of the day. I had been snorkelling among the coral and rocks and treading water for about 20 minutes (since the best snorkelling here wasn’t in shallow water), and I was beginning to feel a little weary. I noticed Charlotte climbing back onto the boat and decided she must be feeling the same and that perhaps a little girly sunbathing was in order (decisions, decisions!), so I swam over to do the same. I had just got out of the water and walked to the front of the boat and was leaning over talking to Ryan and Charlie, who were still swimming below us and gawping at fish, when there was suddenly some commotion between the Thai boat drivers. I heard a boat engine start up and naturally looked out towards the horizon and saw nothing particularly unusual other than a boat similar to ours and almost bursting with people speeding off into the distance in some evident hurry. No one was quite sure what was amiss but while we were wondering, our boat driver hastily started up his engine and began pulling away. Instantly I was concerned as to the imminent danger of the propellor, since I had just seen Ryan making his way to the back of the boat to get on board and there were still people swimming in the surrounding area. Surely this was completely irresponsible? Then I realised what the Thai boatmen had seen coming and why there was the need for such urgency. I looked at Charlotte and behind her was a wave the size of a two storey building rolling towards us and only about twelve foot away. It towered over us, lifting the boat to a ninety degree angle and tipping everyone and everything sideways. Naturally expecting it to break on us like the crest of a normal wave does, I braced myself for instant capsizing and remember even taking a breath to prepare for when I would inevitably be underwater. Miraculously our boatman was somehow capable enough to steer us just over the lip, before another three waves of similar size threatened to do the same as the first. People and belongings were hurled around the boat and we slammed into the sides gripping hold of each other, as the boat tried to negotiate each destructive wave. Amazingly, not a single one capsized us, otherwise I’m sure I wouldn’t be here typing this. It might just be the truest cliché ever heard, but I really do distinctly remember thinking, shit I'm gonna die, please let it be quick. I saw Charlotte’s stark white face of fear staring back at me and my own hands gripping the step and apparently at some point I looked up at Charlotte and said ‘this is it’. Looking back now, this seems a strangely accepting manner in which to prepare oneself for the end.

Then all the waves calmed just as suddenly as they had first come along. We were further out to sea now and the movement of the boat was less violent. I carefully stood up and the most frightening thoughts then began to creep into my mind. I began frantically looking back to where we last saw Ryan and Charlie, but they were nowhere to be seen. I tried to make sense of what had just happened. One minute we were all having a menial conversation about the different coloured fish and the sea was dead calm, and the next minute there were some enormous waves, screaming, shouting and then nothing. Just silence. Then the silence turned to cries of help, desperation, wailing and sobbing and still I couldn't see Ryan anywhere. Him and Charlie had disappeared. I couldn’t believe that moments before I had seen a peaceful, crystal blue ocean and now I was looking back at a brown, frothy bay of choppy waters, full of destruction and mess and people shouting for help. All the long-tail boats had been ripped apart like paper and huge shards of dangerous wood were being tossed about in the sea. It was treacherous.

Bizarrely, I remembered Ryan had some binoculars in our bag but everything had been thrown around, some stuff was missing but I suddenly saw them on the boat floor. My hands were shaking and I kept saying to Charlotte ‘where are they, where are they‘, but I couldn’t see anything. I felt hopeless and utterly helpless so I began shouting at the driver to go back into the shore to find them but he stared back at me blankly. No one would listen, everyone was trying to work out in their own heads what had just happened. I looked again to where the little beach had been and thought I could make out the figure of a man stumbling across the rocks, in yellow shorts. It wasn’t Charlie. It wasn’t Ryan. Someone then mentioned that our driver feared another batch of similar huge waves would appear and slam us into the rocks and so we should wait here where it was safer. But to me this was madness, so I shouted again that we should go and help people, that we should go and find our boys. I looked out to where the waves had come from and there was nothing. No storm, no wind, nothing. It was just as it had been several minutes earlier. I was angry, upset, confused, I shouted for us to put life jackets on, repeating for us to go back into the bay. Again I was ignored. I felt no fear of more waves or of having to go through that again, I just wanted to at least see that they were safe, that Ryan was alive.
Soon we began manoeuvring carefully towards people floating on broken bits of wood, visibly in distress and helping them onto the boat. Some were drowning and screaming and had terrible injuries and were clinging onto the debris and carnage around them. One poor older woman whose bikini was ripped and her arms and back were slashed was calling for her children. I couldn’t see them anywhere. She kept saying ‘help me’, ’help me’ and I leant over the side of the boat to hold her arm and try and comfort her. She instantly gripped me and was so visibly terrified it was like she would never let go, but I told her I couldn‘t pull her up from here because I wasn’t strong enough and that she had to let go so the boat could manoeuvre round and pull her up onto the back. Several other people were dragged onto the boat, one man seemed dead and another was being resuscitated. By this point the shock was washing over me and I was sitting with Charlotte and we were comforting each other, slowly realising the immense danger our boyfriends could and probably would be in.
And then the worst moment of my life came. We were leaving. We were pulling right out of the bay to get out to sea or to get back to the mainland, where with hindsight I realise now we would be safer should any other waves come. The fear was still very apparent in the boat driver, the crew and other passengers. They stared at me and tried to calm me as I begged to go back. You can imagine our desperation that we were pulling away from them still not even sure if they were dead or alive.

Before long we were speeding away across the ocean with the casualties on board. Most of them were in a lot of pain and their whimpers and the boat slapping on the water were the only sounds. I was gripping Charlotte’s arm and the railing around the boat wearing a lifejacket I would ironically turn out to never need. A man lying down in the sheltered part of the boat had been stripped of all his clothing and was laying very still. He seemed to me to be dead, since no one was tending to him or reviving him. I guess no one knew what to do or how to do it. I wish I had. Realising the seriousness of what had just happened caused more horrific thoughts to take over my mind. I now wanted nothing more than to find Ryan and be off the boat and onto dry land as soon as possible, but it seemed to take another hour or so before this happened. We simply couldn’t get into shore. Ahead of us, we could see angry waves tearing into the land at Ao Nang and Raleigh Beach. We sat bobbing about helplessly, a tiny boat on a giant sea of danger, not knowing what to do or where to go. I think the shock of what had just happened was finally sinking in to everyone. No one spoke a word. Eventually we found a desolate bank around another part of Krabi’s coastline that was unrecognisable amid more destruction that had obviously occurred and here we demanded for the final time that the boat stop and let us get off.
Charlotte and I wandered along a dusty road holding each other for support and trying to decide where to go. The midday sun was beating down on us and never before have I wanted it to disappear from the sky so much. The blackness and the horror that had settled on our day was almost made a mockery by this jolly, burning star above us. Our only distraction from what we thought deep down might have happened to the boys, was the need for rational decision making. Where would we find them? Where would they go? Where should we meet them? But every time I shut my eyes for a moment or tried to imagine that Ryan had made it to the shore and climbed up the rocks unhurt, all I could see was him reaching for the back of the boat, the propellor, the huge powerful waves, the rocks behind and all of it coming together in some horrible mental image. One which he simple couldn’t have survived.

This separation from the boys went on for five hours, the longest, most horrendous hours of my life while we waited back on dry land for any news. Looking back now, I realise this is no time at all when you consider the crushing sadness that some survivors of the Tsunami feel everyday, having never found their loved ones. Before we spoke to any family from home, everyone on our boat including us had pretty much decided for their own sanity it was just a freak swell in the ocean that had probably only affected this area of Thailand. How wrong we were. I spent most of the wait crying, then pacing, then talking on the phone giving the families no real news, only hope and prayers. Then we decided we would make our way to Krabi hospital in a taxi and hope they were there, or would be eventually. We prepared ourselves for them to be scratched and bruised at worst.

To all our fortunes and to fate and thanks to the most inexplicable luck, Ryan and Charlie were alive and safe. For this I am forever thankful. We went running into a ward having been told they were there and that Ryan‘s ankle was a suspected breakage, and I ran over to him and flung myself on top of him. I cried and cried with joy, happiness, relief, fear - so many emotions all at once. There aren’t enough words to explain the feelings. It later unfolded that they had been eventually rescued from Chicken Island along with some other lucky, but injured survivors and brought back to the mainland to Krabi Hospital. I think roughly a third of those at Chicken Island either died or were seriously injured, including strong adult men and almost saddest of all, tiny children. It seemed there was no rhyme or reason as to who would be taken from this world on that terrible day. One special little girl, Vivian Slot, forever in our hearts.

On arrival at Krabi Hopspital, it turned out Ryan had needed some emergency stitching to the outside of his foot. He had miraculously escaped death when the first wave slammed him under and then threw him up onto some rocks. It's still horrifies me to imagine what he went through, the near drowning and the utter panic. Apparently he scrambled up them as far as he could and clung on for dear life while he watched more waves looming upon him. What’s so terrifying is that he knew full well they would get him again because he wasn't up high enough, so he just tried to hang on and curl up in a ball hoping for the best. But he was dragged off again and sucked back out until eventually he got enough breath and energy to scramble onto a ledge a bit higher up just as the waves died down. At this point he noticed his leg gushing with blood and he thought it felt broken. He then had the ordeal of climbing down again, into the sea and being helped into three different rescue boats (this meant getting into the sea again of which he is now so understandably terrified.)

The next few days in Krabi Hospital will remain the most difficult and draining of my entire life. It soon became evident how many hundreds, and then thousands of people - both foreigners and thais - had died or been seriously injured and were fighting for their lives all around us. The smell of iodine, medicine, blood, fear and desperation was overpowering and the sense of loss and tragedy, especially of all the beautiful children, will stay with me forever. It seemed though that there was no real time to be wrapped up and lost in the one individual you at last knew was going to be ok. Suddenly other people needed our help, our phones, our language, our strength - we became nurses changing urine pots and feeding the helpless water. I briefly became a translator for a French guy in the bed opposite Ryan who Ryan thought he recognised as one of the Chicken Island survivors. Beds were emptying and then filling up again minute by minute. Then an English guy named Nick was wheeled in in a pretty bad way. Turns out he’d been on Phi Phi, had drowned twice and been rescued somehow. He said he thought he was dead and then the next thing he remembers is being brought into hospital. He asked me with strained breathing, since his lungs were full of debris and seawater, to help him find his wife and two young sons, weakly writing their names in my little book as best he could. I proceeded to rush around asking every injured lady with long blonde hair if they were called Sandra, but I couldn‘t find her anywhere. A volunteer then informed me there was a white board stretching along the outside wall of the hospital with the names of everyone admitted and whether they were dead or alive. A grim, macabre sight but a necessity nevertheless. I checked and checked again and was relieved to see none of their names listed. This gave me some hope that I could pass on to Nick and meant I wouldn’t have to go back in that ward and tell him some awful truth that his family wasin fact dead. I’m not sure how I would have found the strength to do it.

A few days later, Nick was eventually re-united with his sons and his wife Sandra - all unhurt. It was a deeply emotional moment for them all and one that I was so happy to witness. I spoke with him on the phone a week or so ago and he is on the mend after suffering from pneumonia from the damage to his lungs. Another lucky escape for him it would seem.

So now I can look back and feel all these things again, reflect and feel sad, but I know I can also feel immensely lucky to be able to actually be here to reflect on things and write about them thoughtfully. I am thankful to have this life again, a life that is now so much more precious to me. We can all smile and be happy that Tsunami families are still re-uniting and lost friends are still finding each other after so long and I can also tell myself to remember that we must feel joy for the gift of life, even if the sadness for those lost, lays so heavy on our hearts.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Charlotte's Story

I have been unsure as to what I should put on this website for a while, but I thought I should start off with my story.

This is what I wrote to my family, friends and colleagues when I arrived back at work. I found that instead of repeating my story to everyone that this was the easiest way of telling them all - Istill find that this is the easiest way to let

Many of you already know that I was affected by the Tsunami when I was in Thailand. I have been advised to write an email to those close to me so that they can understand what happened to me and hopefully this will answer any questions you might have about how I'm feeling. If I've already told you what happened, I apologise.

I was on holiday with Charlie and my friends Abi and Ryan just off Krabi at a place called Chicken Island (a big island shaped like a chicken...) We were on a snorkeling trip when it hit us. I'd just got out the water into the speedboat and Abi and I were telling the boys where to swim to to see the best fish when suddenly the speedboat driver started the engine and turned the boat which was forcing Charlie and Ryan under the boat - so we were screaming at him to stop as we were scared they'd both be hit by the propeller. Then all of a sudden there was loads of shouting and I looked up behind me and saw a huge wave right next to us - about 40ft tall and looming over us.
It was all over pretty quickly. About 3 or 4 waves hit us in total at tremendous speed. Somehow our driver managed to get the boat through the wave without capsizing, which was a miracle. He truly saved mine and Abi's lives. We got chucked about a lot and at one point the boat was so far over I saw the coral staring me right in the face. Abi was gripping my arm so tightly I had her hand print bruised into my arm for a week.
Once the waves subsided the boat sped off and I could see all the long tail boats except one had exploded and there were bodies and broken boat, debris and dirt in the water. It was completely quiet and then slowly you could hear people screaming names, crying and eventually panic. Although we didn't want to admit it, all me and Abi could think was that we'd lost Charlie and Ryan. We looked over and saw a person being resuscitated in the one remaining long-tail boat.
The boat took off coz he didn't want the boat to hit all the people against the rocks if another one came and we headed off picking up the bodies we could on the way, I think we picked up 4 or 5 in total. Most of them were badly cut up, some were quiet and others were crying. One was a mother ( I think she was Swedish) who lost her 2 boys and another was an man who had lost his wife (English?), the man that was very quiet was Japanese - I'm not sure if he made it.
We were looking towards the shore and it was like there were no beaches. Trees and buildings being buried by waves.
Abi and I were devastated and in total shock. We were eventually dropped off on shore after about an hour and we walked for miles til we got to Abi's resort - Blue Village in Ao Nang.
We were told the roads were blocked so we couldn't leave. The Army was warning people of the chance of another wave coming so we had to stay put. Abi and I had 5 hours of thinking Charlie and Ryan were dead until I received a call from my parents saying that Charlie's mum had called and they were both in the hospital. Abi and I were so happy and managed to get a taxi to the hospital where we were reunited. I can't explain how horrible the feeling is of losing someone and not knowing whether they are alive or dead.
Charlie and Ryan were taken to hospital and Ryan was patient number 39 (there later turned out to be hundreds and hundreds of people admitted). Ryan's legs were cut up bad and had to be stitched up with no pain killers in the emergency room - like so many others.
Charlie managed to scrape through with minor scratches - although he did partly drown during the 3rd wave. It's a miracle they both got through it.
Out of the 30 - 40 people who were snorkeling with us at Chicken Island we think about 8 - 9 died, maybe more. One of those that lost their life was a beautiful 3 year old girl called Vivian. Charlie became close with her father (Steven) and brothers and later had to go and help identify Vivian with Steven 3 days later in the mortuary. We were both there just after Steven told his wife, Helena, and children that she had been found. Charlie and I were absolutely heartbroken.
Once I found Charlie and Ryan I went round the hospital and tried to help as much as I could (as there wasn't many people there to help at that point) I mainly listened to people's experiences, comforted them, phoned their family for them, help translate what the doctors had said was wrong with them and check the boards outside to see if their loved ones had been admitted and whether they were alive or dead - something which I dreaded doing every time.
We become very close with two families during this experience. Steven and Helena and their 2 boys and Nick and Sandy and their 2 boys. Nick was on the same ward as Ryan and we helped reunite him with his wife and children through our mobile phone. Nick drowned twice and was resuscitated by a Thai man who he has never since met. Both families live in Hong Kong so we are hoping to visit them at some point.
We eventually got out of the hospital on the 29th Dec in an American Army War plane (by pilots that looked like they should be in Top Gun!) and Charlie and I were flown home on the 1st Jan on the chartered embassy flight.
Abi and Ryan stayed in Bangkok until the 27th January (it think) and Ryan had a skin graft from his thigh to his ankle. We're closer than ever and I'm so glad that they live close by so we can talk to them if we're feeling down.
Once we came back to the UK Charlie was interviewed by a lot of press - he wanted to get across how much we respected the Thai people for dealing with the disaster and how great we thought they were. Thailand will always be a place we'll go back to... in fact we're already planning our next visit at Christmas. We'd like to go back and pay our respects and visit some of the kind people who helped us and so many others.

At the moment I'm trying to sort my head out - I'm having pretty bad dreams and have my good and bad days. I guess it's something that will take a lot of time to heal, but I'm feeling a lot more positive now.

My story telling skills are a bit rubbish but I think I got most of my experience down....

I'd be a rubbish novelist! Maybe I'm more suited to writing a Mills & Boon book.

I'm not expecting any responses I just wanted to get it all out and try and let everyone know what happened... I feel very lucky to be alive.

Love to you all.

Charlotte x