SURVIVOR: Saly Huyton
SURVIVING THE TSUNAMI
Posted By Saly Huyton(14/08/2005 23:30:00)
Originally posted at http://www.tsunamistories.net
and reposted again by Rick Von Feldt at www.phukettsunami.blogspot.com
Me and my boyfriend Paul flew to Bangkok with 2 of our friends Matt and Haidee to spend Christmas with 2 other friends, Ralph and Dawn who are teachers in Thailand. We spent a few days in Bangkok before making our way to Phi Phi. We were all so excited. We hadn't all been together for a long time and the fact that we were all together in Thailand was amazing.
When we arrived in Phi Phi, we were all amazed how beautiful it was. We went to check in at our hotel (the Phi Phi Cabana) and couldn't believe our luck. We already had superior rooms but they had over booked so we were upgraded again. We wer on the 3rd floor, Matt and Haids on the 2nd floor and Ralph and Dawn on the 4th floor. When we all went to our rooms we couldn't believe our eyes. The rooms were amazing but the views were unbelievable.
The next few days were the best holiday I had ever had. We spent alot of the time relaxing by the pool, amazed by the beautiful views of the bay. It was paradise!
On Boxing Day morning, I think it was about 8ish, we were awoken by an earthquake. We weren't too sure what it was at first as we had had a few drinks the night before and thought we may stil have been drunk. Paul got up and saw that the lamp in the corner was shaking all over the place. I don't know how long it lasted but as we were awake now we thought we would get up. We were always in bed when breakfast was being served so we thought we'd give it a try.
When we arrived at the breakfast hall, Matt and Haids were there. Ralph and Dawn went for breakfast every morning but for some reason they decided to have a sleep in this morning. The rest of us sat round talking about the earthquake, not realising the other effects it has. When we had finished, I wanted to go to the chemist and get some cream for my jellyfish stings, so me and Paul went back to our room to get money. Haids also went back to her room to get changed and to chill for a bit. Matt said that he would go straight to the pool and get 6 sun beds for us all.
On our way to the chemist we decided to go via the pool to see Matt. When we got there he was on a sunbed with his headphones on listening to music with his back to the sea. Our pool was right on the beach,about 3ft up. Paul started talking to Matt as I stood looking out at the bay. Then I noticed this big wall of what looked like white water but was a dirty dark gray colour stretching from one side of the ba to the other. I shouted to the boys to come and have a look, Matt was getting a bit p***ed off because we kept disturbing him.
We all stood at the side of the pool watching it in amazement.Paul said " it's a tsunami" but it didn't look threatening at all, it was just wierd. There was a wooden longboat and a speedboat which started to get pushed by this water towards each other, it was only then that we thought "oh my god, the people on those boats could die if they collide". Whilst we were watching that, we didn't realise that the water in front of us was rapidly rising. The wall of water that was coming in, was pushing the water that was in the bay up.
Paul and Matt jumped down to the beech to help a Scandinavian couple. Paul managed to push the guy to one side so the boat missed him. Matt jumped back up and shouted to me to run but I couldn't leave Paul. Matt ran but as I stood there shouting for paul to hurry, the water knocked all the sun laungers into my legs and I landed on my back. Thats when the panick really kicked in. Paul had hold of the woman who was in the water but was stuck in a flower bed. He screamed at "RUN,RUN SALLY", so I did.
It was hard to run when the water was just below the knee, full of rubish and sunbeds, I was wearing flip flops and everyone was hysterical. I couldn't run straight towards the hotel because the pool was in the way, which had filled up with black water, so I had to run round. I thought that if I could get to the concrete stair case next to the gym, I would be OK. The stairs were concealed by a concrete wall so if the water hit it it wouldn't go back on itself. I also thought that if I could get into a room and close the door, I would also be alright, not realising how powerful it was. I got pushed sideways into the gym which was glass fronted and faced the sea. There was nothing between the gym and the sea. As soon as I was in the gym, I slipped on the floor and landed on my bum with my back to the glass. The next thing I remember was looking up behind me and all the glass surrounding me exploded. It was like something off a movie.
Within a second, the whole gym was filled to the ceiling with black water. There was nowhere for the water to go, no window or door at the other side for it to dispurse so it just kept coming and coming. It was like being in a washing machine with all sorts of gym equipment, wooden sunlaungers, trees, glass, boats everything. I could feel myself geting banged from every angle but I couldn't feel any pain. I was more bothered about holding my breath. I don't know how long I was under the water but it felt like a lifetime.
I was exhausted. I couldn't hold my breath any longer. I started to think about Paul and my mum and dad and how upset they would be if I died, but I couldn't hold on anymore. I remembered something that I had seen on TV about drowning, that it was very relaxing and peaceful. I then thought this is it, I'm going to die, my time is up. I relaxed, went limp and started to breathe in the water. It was very easy to do (didn't taste nice though). It may sound corny but it was really peaceful, like in a euphoric state. I remember seeing a bright light underneath me and brief flashes of my life, cheesey I know but true.
I must have then either been knocked out or I passed out. The next thing I remember is waking up in a basement full of rubish and bodies. I wasn't on the floor because I could see water and bodies under me. I was coughing up lots of water and sick. I couldn't breathe very well, very short sharp breaths and I had gym equipment and weight benches on top of my legs, I kept trying to wriggle free but I couldn't move an inch. I tried to shout for help but I didn't have the energy. I could feel that there was something big sticking about 1 foot out of my side, I think it was a piece of glass but I knew it was hindering my movement.
I lay there for about a minute wondering if I was the only person alive and would anyone find me down here. Then I looked up to my left and saw a doorway with half a staircase, I had to get up there if I wanted to get out. Then I heard water and looked up, more water rushed passed the door and the water underneath me started to rise. I thought F this, I'm not going through all that again, so I fulled the piece of glass out of my stomach, and just went crazy wriggling my legs until eventually I got free. I scrambled over all the rubble and managed to pull myself up onto the staircase and walked out of the door. It was so bright and sunny but deadly silent. I was in a big hall, stood on a stage, all 3 double doors had been blasted off and all the chairs and tables where stacked up on one side of the room.
I stood there for a second then looked down, I was stood in a big pool of blood which I imagined was mine so I thought I'd best lye down. As I lay there I gathered all my energy and managed to shout for help. Then I heard another woman outside shouting, which was a great relief. I wasn't the only person alive. Then I saw a man stood in the doorway with a lifejacket on, it was Luke Simmonds.I am the British girl called Sally, the first person he found. He put me on a door and a few of them carried me to safety. He asked me how I was and st that stage I thought I had punctured a lung and broken my ankle. Little did I know that I had a hole in my stomach that you could fit 2 big fists in, my foot was hanging off and from my waiste down to the back of my knee looked like a shark had eaten it. I had holes a few inches long all over my body and had lost a lot of blood.
Luke asked if I was with anyone and I said yes, my boyfriend Paul. I know that he is alive and ok and would be looking for me. Luke covered me with sheets to keep the flies off and I remember him pouring alchol into my stomach which hurt like hell! Luke held my hand and looked after me until Paul found me, which was a couple of hours later. He was very positive, and caring. Words can't describe what he did for myself and a lot of other people that day. I owe him my life!
To see Pauls face was unbelievable, I felt like I had a smile from ear to ear but I was told that I didn't and that I was fighting for breath. I felt happy inside, not thinking for one minute that I may stil die so Luke made sure that I was on the first boat off the island. The others were all ok, they watched the waves come in from their rooms so didn't get hurt. They spent the night in the mountains, but thats another story.
When we arrived at Phuket harbour, we were the first boat off the islands to land, so there were lots of people waiting for us. I was the first person to be taken off the boat but the medics kept grabbing my foot and the pain go so bad I went to pass out. Then a little old Thai lady ran out of the croud and put smelling salts under my nose until I came too. I was taken to a hospital in phuket and operated on. I thought the nightmare was over but I came to whilst they were still operating on my ankle, the pain was unbearable, but they had to continue.
The next day Ralph showed up at the hospital with a Thai lady he knew. This was very emotional for me but more so Paul. Paul had been through an awful lot and then to have to look after me on his own knowing that I was in alot of pain, was terrible for him. So to see Ralph was a big relief. The woman who came with Ralph arranged for an ambulance to drive from Bangkok for 12 hours to pick me up and drive me back to Bumrungrad hospital. That same night a couple from Jersey where we live, also ood friends of my aunty and uncle, turned up at the hospital. They had been staying in Phuket at the time. That was also amazing to see friendly faces.
Whilst in recovering in Bangkok, I then got pnumonia so I spent about 3-4 weeks there before I could fly home.
There aren't words to describe how greatful I am for everything everyone did for me. Paul was so strong, he kept me going through the whole experience, I couldn't have done it without him. Ralph, Dawn, Matt and Haids kept my spirits high every day that I was in hospital. Luke saved my life. All the Thai people who were so selfless. I could never thank them all enough!
A BIG THANKYOU to all the people who helped me that day and with my recovery!!!
SURVIVOR: Fiona and Simon
THE STORY OF FIONA AND SIMON
Posted By Fiona(02/08/2005 00:23:00)
Ao Nang, Krabi
Fiona posted this story on http://www.tsunamistories.net
and it has been republished on www.phukettsunami.blogspot.com
by Rick Von Feldt
I have only just found this website, and have been moved by everybody’s stories. I feel compelled to tell mine and Simon’s. I was working at the Bangkok office of my (London) firm at the time the Tsunami struck, and had been there since September 2004. My boyfriend, Simon, came over to see me on 14th December for a well deserved holiday, but because I was working long hours at the time, I didn’t really get to spend any time with him until 23rd December, the day we flew to Krabi for our Christmas holiday.
I never normally plan holidays, but this time, because I had been looking forward to seeing Simon so much, I had it all planned to the tee. We were staying in the Queens Bay Pavillion Hotel in Ao Nang, and I had been looking through the guide books for months working out what we could do while we were there. For the first few days of the holiday Si and I just sat by the hotel pool chilling out. On Christmas Eve the hotel had a special Christmas dinner do thing, and we both got quite drunk, waking up on Christmas day with quite bad hangovers. That evening I remember we sat on our balcony, which had a lovely view of the sea, and watched the sun set.
Si took loads of pictures on his new digital camera, and we both got quite excited about how nice they were going to look when we got home and developed them. Anyway, due to the hangovers, we decided to get an early night that night, and booked a trip sea kayaking around a lagoon in Ko Hong, an island about an hour away from Ao Nang, for boxing day morning. I will never forget waking up that morning. It was the first morning of the holiday where I actually felt like I was relaxing and winding down. It was a lovely day, and the first thing I did was to walk over to the balcony and have a quiet, solitary cigarette, watching the world wake up. Si and I were picked up by our tour company at 9am. They drove us in a minibus to Hat Nopparat Thara (the bay nearest to Ao Nang), where we got onto a longtail boat for our trip to Ko Hong. Apart from Simon and myself, there were two Thai tour guides, the Thai boat owner, a French man, a middle aged Thai woman, and a young Thai couple on the boat.
The scenery was beautiful, but I remember feeling quite unsafe as the water seemed to be quite choppy. At one point, after about 45 minutes, we stopped off to fish for our lunch and the Thai boat owner shouted at the blokes on the boat to stop leaning over the side quite so much, because the boat was tipping quite precariously. It was in fact so choppy that the Thai lady on the boat had to lie down on the bottom to stop herself from being sea sick. At this point the tour guide decided that we had had enough of the fishing and that we should press on with the rest of the sail to Ko Hong. I know it won’t change anything, but I wish we had carried on with the fishing.
We got the Ko Hong about 15 minutes later, sometime after 10am I presume (I hadn’t looked at my watch throughout the journey and so don’t know exactly what time it was). Ko Hong has a double bay. The first part of the bay (the part where we parked the boat) consists of a narrow beach leading to sheer cliffs. In between the two bays is a limestone karst about 30 feet tall, and when you walk around the karst you reach the second bay which is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life – your classic white beach, completely clear water, with trees lining it. Anyway, we all got out of our boat and started walking towards to second bay, which would apparently have led us to the lagoon and our canoes. Simon was lagging behind a bit and so I slowed down to walk with him. At this point we were just about up to the beach of the second bay, and everybody else was walking through the little forest towards the canoes. There were 120 people on the island that day. I remember looking out into the sea and seeing a line of water coming towards us, obviously a big wave.
Then all the Thai people started running. At this point I didn’t feel any urgency at all – it was almost like a dream. Somebody – I think it must have been Si, shouted at me “RUN” and so I started running. There was still absolutely no urgency at all about me, and I remember checking my handbag to make sure that it was firmly attached to me in case anything (I didn’t know what) happened. After about 5 paces my right flip flop fell off, and I stopped to put it back on.
Then the wave hit me. I still wasn’t particularly scared at this point as all I was thinking was “It’s just water, and I can swim – I will be fine”. Immediately I got caught in its force and found myself tumbling along the ground completely out of control. It was at that point that I realised that I could die. The next thing I remember is looking up at the sky through the water and seeing some tangled mangrove roots and thinking that I had to try to hoist myself up through the trees in order to breathe.
That was where I stayed. I think I might have lost consciousness for a bit at that point, because it seemed that almost immediately to me everything then went eerily quiet and it I was the only person on the whole island. I tried to pull myself up from the mangrove trees, and realised quickly that I was completely trapped and couldn’t go anywhere.
At that point I started screaming for help. I then saw a lady coming up to me and so asked her to help. She started pulling me out, but has since told me that as she couldn’t see anything wrong with me, she just told me that I had to try to do it myself as she had lost her 18 month old baby and was looking for her. Her baby died on that island. Her loss must have been unbearable. She did manage to pull me out of the trees enough for me to realise that my right leg must have been badly broken as my foot was at an angle that wouldn’t normally have been possible.
At that point I looked to my left and saw Simon about ten feet away. Apparently I shouted at him “baby, it’s me, I think my leg has fallen off.” He had blood running down his face, and his leg was also badly cut, but he was able to walk and so he started climbing as fast as he could across the mangrove trees to get to me. He was crying, and just kept saying to me that if that was a wave machine, like you get in amusement parks, it wasn’t a very funny joke, because people could have been badly hurt in it. With the help of a Norwegian man who had then appeared, Simon managed to pull me out of the mangrove trees so that I was lying on top of them. That was when we realised that my leg was in a much worse state then we had originally thought. The tibia was snapped completely, like a twig, and all the skin on my lower leg seemed to have sloughed away. I could also see red stinging ants climbing around in my muscle and whatever else was left of my leg, and my thigh was starting to swell up. I couldn’t feel any pain at all at first, and that was strange, but after a few minutes the pain started up and got worse and worse.
All I could think was that I needed to find a boat to take me back to the shore and to the hospital – and I kept saying it to everyone I could find. So Simon, an English woman called Sarah, and the Norwegian man started to pick me up and carry me back towards the beach to look for a boat. Obviously, none was there. At that point the water rose again, and we all realised that there was a big danger of another wave. That was when I realised that, although my handbag had managed to stay on me because I had made sure that it was secure before the wave hit, my bikini pants had been ripped off and I was naked below the waist.
Although it sounds stupid, that was all I was worried about at that point and kept telling everyone that I was naked and really embarrassed – it is funny that anyone could be worried about something as trivial as that at a time like that and I have thought about it a lot subsequently. There was a little concrete hut a few feet into the forest, and they decided to carry me there instead of finding a boat. At that point the pain was really beginning. The bottom of my leg was hanging onto the rest of it by a small piece of skin at the back, and every time they tried to carry me it would flop down and I would scream with pain. They eventually found a towel that they could use as a sling and that was how they ended up carrying me. We got to the hut, and it was completely packed with very badly injured people.
The only place to lie me down was in the doorway. Most people that were able bodied were worried about a second wave and had started making their way to higher ground. I remember there was a woman there who was lying on a makeshift bed. Her husband was kneeling over her side and was shouting at everyone asking them if they know how to do mouth to mouth. Simon went over to try to help, but she was dead. I was losing a lot of blood and was gradually starting to feel more and more out of it. At some point, our tour guide came to the hut, and recognising us, and taking one look at me, told us that he would go to find us a boat (I was still demanding a boat to the mainland). I don’t know how much longer we waited in the hut, but out tour guide was as good as his word. He came back with a yellow canoe (Simon is convinced it was red, but I vividly remember it as yellow – we have argued about it a lot since – stupid again I know). They lifted me into the canoe and started carrying me towards the beach again. This is the part that I know Simon will never ever get over.
When the tour guide got back to the hut he pulled Simon aside and told him that he had found a boat for me but that Si couldn’t tell anybody else because if he did there would be a mass fight to get on the boat and it may capsize. A man whose wife was dying then pulled Simon aside and asked him if we had found a boat. He said no. We later found out that I was the only survivor from that hut. 20 people died on the island that day. The man who had found the canoe slid me over the beach and then jumped into the canoe, paddling it himself. There was no room for Si in the canoe and so he held onto the back of it and started swimming. I have no idea how far away from the shore the boat was but it must have been quite a long way out due to the fear of another wave. Every time the Thai man who was paddling me looked at my leg he threw up into the sea. All three of us were petrified there was going to be another wave. We eventually got to the speed boat, and it went back to the mainland as quickly as possible.
When we got back there I was almost unconscious. Luckily as we were so early there was an ambulance waiting and it took me straight to Krabi hospital. I lost Si when we got to the shore, but apparently the minute he saw me being taken into the ambulance, he collapsed. His leg was much more badly injured than he had originally thought, and he spent the next month in hospital himself. I have very little memory of the next 2 days apart from being hot, being in pain, hearing people screaming and moaning, asking for water and painkillers, and being too scared to look at my leg.
On Monday evening I remember turning my head and being just really really surprised to see my Dad. He had been in Vietnam at the time the Tsunami hit, and when he couldn’t get through to me on my mobile had realised what had happened. He had spent 3 hours looking for me in the hospital, and just before he found me was told where the morgue was.
The next miracle appeared in the form of two of my colleagues from the Bangkok office of my firm, who had also realised what had happened, together with Simon’s parents who were in Chiang Mai on holiday when the Tsunami happened. Without the Thai tour guide, Simon, my work colleagues, or our parents I don’t think I would have been here today. They were amazing and organised for me to be taken straight from Krabi hospital to a private hospital in Hat Yai, and from there to Bangkok where I had my leg amputated on 30 December. It apparently was so badly infected that I would have been dead in days if I had stayed in Krabi. I stayed in hospital in Bangkok until 13th January, and was then in hospital in London until mid February.
I went back to work at the end of February, and finally got a prosthetic leg at the beginning of June. Things are slowly getting back to normal, but will never be the same again. I would like to say that my heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by the Tsunami and everybody who has lost somebody in it.
I am so so so desperately sorry for your losses.