Couple's miracle escape

A WORTHING couple who escaped the devastating tsunami tidal waves in Asia have spoken of how they were just 30 minutes from death.

Simon and Julie Tee had left their holiday resort of Phuket, in Thailand, on an excursion just half an hour before the deadly waves hit the coast on Boxing Day, claiming the lives of thousands.

The waves engulfed coastal towns and villages in 11 countries, including India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, following the powerful undersea earthquake. Around 70,000 people, including 17 Britons, are missing or feared dead.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Speaking exclusively to the Herald from her hotel room, Julie, known as Jools, described the terrifying turn of events.

"We were staying in a beach-front hotel and had a tour arranged for that day. We left the hotel at 8.50am and the wave hit at around 9.15am," she said.

"The first we knew of anything was when we were turned back from the bay as we went to the second part of our tour. We were taken to a camp where there was a small television. About 40 of us just sat and watched it for hours.

"We spent the night in the camp but others left to go back to their hotel. We later heard that a second wave went through Phuket. I don't know what happened to them."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The couple joined a small group who tried to get back to the hotel the following day to see what they could salvage.

"We got a bus with some tour guides that dropped us as near as they could.

"The damage was astounding. We went to our room and there was a tide mark 4ft up the wall. A lamp-post had burst through the door.

"We had a few possessions left. We left our passports and paperwork in the hotel safe and the hotel manager had moved it into his own home before bringing it back.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"The next thing we knew there were some local children running by and screaming that there was another wave coming. We ran like hell to get back to the bus but it had gone.

"Fortunately, we had met a lovely family that were able to take us to the airport.

"We kept looking around us at people sobbing on their mobile phones, seeing people all around us with nothing. We feel very lucky in spite of everything. We've had a couple of days reeling with the shock of what could have happened.

"We're just both feeling we were meant to have the trip on that day.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"One of the reasons we wanted to have the holiday over Christmas was that Simon lost both his parents last year.

"We like to think that they intervened in some way."

"It's just so surreal. It's all so hard to believe."

But Simon and Jools are refusing to let the terrible events destroy the holiday that means so much to them. They intend to stay in Ko Samui before moving on to Bangkok.

Jools said: "It can't get any worse. I'm making sure I enjoy the rest of it."

A close family friend who was housesitting for the couple while they were away faced a nervous wait for news that Simon and Jools were safe.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ken Sturgess, 41, watched news of the disaster on television on Boxing Day morning and immediately attempted to contact his friends.

He said: "It took six or seven attempts before I made contact with them and found out they were safe.

"Nobody was aware of the scale of it, you don't realise what it's like. Your first thought is for your mates."