28 Dec 2004

Emotional scenes as Singaporeans return from tsunami-hit areas

Although I am in the UK for Christmas I hope that all those who know me in Singapore are alive and well. Of course my thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones or been injured. I am not a man of very strong religious belief but I have been saying prayers for the last few days and so far I have not become aware of any friends being involved in the disaster.

Emotional scenes as Singaporeans return from tsunami-hit areas
By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : Emotions ran high at Changi Airport on Tuesday as friends and families were reunited with their loved ones who had returned from tsunami strickened areas, while others waited anxiously for injured family members.

Goh Poh Eng, 21, arrived at around 12.30 pm with the help of fellow travellers and airline staff.

Her sister said she had gone to Phuket before Christmas and called home on Monday about the disaster.

She had cuts on her face and body.

Family members said Ms Goh, a third year marketing student from the Nanyang Technological University, was asleep in her hotel room when the tsunami struck.

Besides Ms Goh, another two boys in wheelchairs were also whisked away from the airport.

Many could hardly contain their joy after days of anxiety and worry.

Paul Andriesz, a Singapore permanent resident, said, "The staff came rushing through the hotel saying, Everybody get out, there's water coming. My wife and I, we got separated for about nine hours. She was with two of our children and I was with the nanny and a baby."

Twenty-six-year-old Loh Tse Lynn and her friend lost most of their belongings when their seaside resort was wiped out.

They had stopped by at the Khao Lak beach after a two-week diving expedition, and taken shelter at a restaurant that morning.

Ms Loh said, "The shop owners went out to take a look, then he said, Everyone upstairs, upstairs. So we went upstairs and we saw the water just came down the street and covered the whole street; it was very fast."

Singaporean tourist Mabel Lee said, "The road leading to the hotel was all covered. It was muddy, it was swirling; you had trucks and vans being pulled out from the land in the direction of the sea."

Many divers out at sea also escaped unhurt, thanks to observant dive leaders.

Singaporean Thomas Seah said, "The nearby islands were really flooded, very high; and the dive leaders were saying this is something very strange, something they have not seen for the past four years. The water went up by three to five metres in 20 minutes. So they immediately stopped all the diving activities."

While many Singaporeans are home safe, the fate of others remains unknown.

Another Singaporean, Sherwin Chua, said, "We were in contact with an official from the consulate and he said there were six Singaporeans who cannot be accounted for."

American tourist Eric Li added, "There are a lot of people injured at the Phuket Airport right now, trying to get out. You see them wheeling around in wheelchairs, and lots of bandages and injuries."

One Singaporean family of four back from Sri Lanka also had a narrow escape when they arrived at the hotel five minutes before the killer waves came.

They had witnessed the ordeal from the third floor.

Said Siti Adzmah Abdullah, "She was in a shock, she was crying. She said, Mama, I don't want to die, I don't want to die, mama. We were really very shaken." - CNA


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