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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 December, 2004, 12:50 GMT
'A great surge came over the beach'
The road in front of the Hilton Arcadia resort, on Karon Beach, on the island of Phuket, Thailand
"The beach umbrellas and sun beds were like dolls furniture"

A Buckinghamshire family holidaying in Thailand watched from their hotel balcony as a massive wave smashed into their beach resort.

When Mike Williams felt himself being shaken awake on Boxing Day morning, he instinctively turned towards his wife, Kathryn - but realised she was still sleeping peacefully.

"Can you feel the bed moving?", he asked her.

"Don't be so stupid! Go back to sleep," she replied.

But when their hotel room - at the Hilton Arcadia resort at Karon Beach, Phuket - started shaking, the couple ran out onto the balcony to find their daughter, Sam, who had been sleeping in the adjoining room.

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As the tremors subsided and the family realised they had experienced an earthquake, Mr Williams joked: "Now just wait for the tsunami!"

Her parents were still laughing, when Sam suddenly stopped, pointed towards the beach across the road, and shouted: "Daddy, the sea's gone!"

The sea had gone out so far, it had disappeared.

The road in front of the Hilton Arcadia resort, on Karon Beach, on the island of Phuket, Thailand
The hotel's security guards braved the swirling waters

The next thing the family saw was a 15ft wave tearing across the sand towards the hundreds of holidaymakers lying on loungers and oblivious to the imminent danger.

"If you were on the beach, you were stuck," Mr Williams, 59, told BBC News.

"Then we heard screaming as a great surge came over the beach and onto the road, flooding the shops and hotel garden.

"The beach umbrellas and sunbeds were like dolls' furniture as they were swept inland.

"The surge continued, and dozens of cars were swept along the road like floating toys.

"It was absolute chaos - very scary."

The family watched from their second-floor balcony as terrified, injured survivors struggled onto a small area of high ground between the beach and road in front of the hotel.

Kathryn Williams on the beach in front of the Hilton Arcadia resort, on Karon Beach, on the island of Phuket, Thailand
Kathryn Williams was on the beach in front of the hotel the day on Christmas Day

Hotel security guards braved the swirling waters to rescue stranded guests.

"It was very dangerous as the road was like a floating bumper-car track with cars and beach equipment," Mr Williams, a health-care worker from High Wycombe, told BBC News.

"At one point a frightened little girl of about seven was carried across the flooded road and put on the ground crying until another guard found her mother."

Mr Williams was speaking from his hotel room, where he remains with his wife and daughter.

The trio have been told not to leave in case any aftershocks cause more massive waves.




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