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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 December, 2004, 13:36 GMT
Eyewitness: Survivor's tale in Thailand
Thousands of people have been e-mailing the BBC News website about their experiences during and after the chaos of Sunday's earthquake and sea surges.

Simon Taplin, a photographer based in Singapore, described how all those staying in his hotel on the Thai island of Koh Racha managed to escape with their lives.

Tourists at Koh Racha Yai. as the first - more gentle - sea surge happened  (picture Simon Taplin)
At first, tourists watched the sea with amazement...
My personal tale is an account of the miraculous survival of everyone in my hotel - some 300 people - in the front line of the Tsunami.

The Racha resort, where I was staying, had just fully opened, and many foreign guests were staying there.

The main clubhouse had a pool on the upper deck above the beach, overlooking Racha Bay.

The structure was sturdy in order to support the weight of the pool, and it was this structure which took the full force of the Tsunami - and saved my life and many others.

Tourists flee from the beach (picture Simon Taplin)
...but soon they were forced to leave the beach.
Guests reported feeling tremors at around 0730 (0030 GMT) on Boxing Day. By 0930 we were roused from our lounge chairs by the pool to see a slow but extremely high surge of water which gently came forward to flood the beach.

It washed away deckchairs, sun loungers, canoes - basically anything that floated into the bay.

The surge was not strong at this point, although it was enough of a warning for most people to get off the beach.

The same surging action repeated itself about two or three times.

The final surge of water (picture Simon Taplin)
Every building around the clubhouse was destroyed
Simon Taplin
Many people, including myself, put this down to the full moon that day, and were not generally alarmed.

It was the warmth, and the clear blue sky, that made the event feel so surreal.

Within seconds, though, the surges of water became more forceful.

Then the volume of water started increasing and decreasing. The back current pulled it back some 50m, and emptied the entire bay in about 10 seconds.

I could best relate this scene to Biblical tales of the Red Sea parting, and exposing the whole sea bed.

Then the water began to rush in with equal speed, and ever increasing height, until the third and strongest wave which hit the clubhouse pool forced us to flee for our lives.

The topography of the island allowed us to reach high ground extremely quickly, as we were able to run quickly up the shore.

We remained there for the rest of the day, for fear of any aftershocks.

Many people - myself included - stayed there for two nights until we were able to get off the island.

Every building around the clubhouse was destroyed, and I'm sure if the building we were standing on had not been made to support a swimming pool, it would have collapsed, taking us all with it.

The devastation was like the Bali bomb blast , and the missing posters I saw at the airport were reminiscent of Manhattan 2001.

I would like to thank the local Thai community, who worked fast and effectively and looked after us as if we were siblings, and to our hotel manager who took the situation completely in hand - organising food, water and medical attention for the whole island.

Also, thanks must go to those who went back into the surge to rescue divers trapped in the water and people in buildings below.

And also to God, who must have been looking down on us all on that small island that day.

My heart goes to all who were less fortunate.


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