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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 January, 2005, 18:05 GMT
Man tells of tsunami rescue drama
John Chroston
Mr Chroston spotted the signs of the tragedy unfolding
A Scottish teacher who saved his family and 15 tourists from the tsunami disaster in the Thai resort of Phuket has spoken of his ordeal.

John Chroston, from Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire, was on the beach with his daughter when he noticed a fishing boat suddenly left high and dry.

Mr Chroston, 48, spotted a bus full of tourists and persuaded the driver to head to high ground.

He said he would now do all he could to help the appeal for those affected.

The holiday-maker was on the beach with his daughter Rebecca when he noticed that the keel of a Thai fishing boat he was about to photograph had become beached.

We sprinted towards my wife and I was actually shouting the word 'tsunami, tsunami'
John Chroston
Tsunami survivor
He told BBC Radio Scotland's Newsdrive programme: "The sea had retracted to beyond the lip of the bay.

"We're talking about probably millions of gallons of water having disappeared, almost like water down a sink.

"Clearly the alarm bells started ringing loudly because the sea simply doesn't do this.

"There were other environmental clues which suggested things were wrong, including, tragically, children running down the shore chasing after stranded crabs and fish."

Realising what was happening, Mr Chroston yelled the alert.

Phuket
The clear-up operation is under way on Phuket's beaches
"All that came into my head was that there was a major geological event about to unfold and I said this to my daughter and said we had to get off the beach and onto high ground.

"We sprinted towards my wife and I was actually shouting the word 'tsunami, tsunami'."

As his wife, Sandra, and Rebecca jumped on a passing hotel shuttle bus, Mr Chroston told the Thai driver to head for high ground but the driver could not understand English.

"It was only by another piece of good luck that a surgeon from Bangkok, who became a very dear friend over the next four days, knew from the look in my eyes and my body language that I meant business, I was serious," he explained.

I think we were probably the only people to clear the beach that day and it still haunts me
John Chroston
"He believed me and instructed the driver to do exactly what I said and we sped off."

Mr Chroston also got the bus to stop and save a pregnant woman and a local woman and baby.

The teacher said he had to be content that he had saved a few lives but that questions of what more he could have done still bother him.

He said: "I wonder if I could have alerted more people on the beach because they were largely standing mesmerised, almost hypnotised, by what was happening around them.

Sandra and Rebecca Chroston
The Chrostons are trying to cope with their ordeal
"I think we were probably the only people to clear the beach that day and it still haunts me."

Mrs Chroston said she also has many thoughts for the people they left behind.

She said: "It's just difficult to come to terms with what happened and we're trying to do that the best we can.

"People have been very good in coming to see us and we just have to get on with our lives, but if we can help the Thai people we certainly will."

Mr Chroston encouraged the public to contribute to the appeal for the victims and said it should be stressed that the disaster relief operation would be a long haul.


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