Mon, Jan 10, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Survivor was forced to let go of a pregnant woman

DPA , Hong Kong

A survivor of the tsunami in Thailand has spoken of his anguish after he was forced to push away a pregnant woman who was clinging desperately to him.

Briton Andrew Keith, 35, says he is haunted by the moment he prised the woman's arms from around his neck to stop them both drowning as they were churned around in the water.

Speaking of his ordeal as he recovered from a broken leg, the expatriate merchandising manager, who lives in Hong Kong, said: "There was nothing I could have done to save her."

The body of Thisbe Ander, a newlywed Swedish tourist, was later found washed up in a mangrove swamp with her husband Thomas.

Keith and the Swedish couple were hit by the tidal wave at the Golden Buddha Beach resort on Pra Thong island in Thailand, where he has a holiday home.

Recalling the drama, he said: "There was this huge noise like a plane. We ran to the beach and saw that a wave had broken and was racing back out to sea. It had broken very high.

"Suddenly it was coming at us very, very fast and people started running and telling us to get on to higher ground.

"I jumped up on to a rock and a young Swedish couple were coming across the beach towards me. I told them to get to the high ground and they stumbled up on to the rock just as the wave struck.

"There were two waves that came together and we were caught in the vortex of these. It was like being in a huge washing machine.

"We were swept off the rock and the woman put her arms around my neck. She was very panicked and very scared.

"As we went under the water, she started to tighten her grip. We were going further and further down. We were being tumbled over and over.

"As the pressure of the water got more intense, her grip just kept getting tighter and tighter around my neck. I realized I was drowning -- we were both drowning -- and needed to get to the surface.

"If I didn't do something we would both be dead. I thought if I could break her grip we might both have a chance.

"I had to fight her off. It was pretty difficult. I was pulling her arms off from around my neck. Eventually she let go and I never saw her again after that.

The bodies of Thisbe and her husband Thomas, who were on honeymoon, were found with five other people from the Golden Buddha Beach resort in the days after the tsunami.

A total of 13 guests, homeowners and Thai staff died at the resort. Scores more people from the island's three fishing villages were swept away to their deaths.

Keith, who has lived in Hong Kong for 10 years and works for upmarket department store Lane Crawford, said: "I have really found it difficult to deal with what happened.

"It has played very heavily on my mind. But there wasn't anything I could do. Even if we had managed to get to the surface there wasn't anywhere I could have taken her."

When he resurfaced, the raging sea swept Andrew inland into a mangrove swamp, and minutes later smashed him into a tree and dragged him back underwater where his leg was trapped in tree roots.

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