SURVIVOR: Saly HuytonSURVIVING 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!!!