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Stranraer Couple Witness Tsunami Rescue Efforts

A STRANRAER couple on the holiday of a lifetime over Christmas and New Year escaped the recent tsunami disaster in south east Asia by a mere 15 hours.

Susan and Nigel Maynard, from Park Crescent in the town, were on a three week break in the region, and were preparing to transfer from Singapore to Phuket, Thailand, when the huge wave struck the Thai island on Boxing Day, killing thousands.

Having been told that the hotel in which they were due to stay for six days had been destroyed by the tsunami, the travel company, Thomas Cook Signatures, transferred them to the Malaysian island of Penang, which at that time was not thought to be affected.

On arriving, however, Susan was immediately aware that it had been, and witnessed at first hand the rescue efforts. Susan said:

"When we arrived in Penang it was clear that it had been affected. There were rescue centres being set up and helicopters out looking for survivors.

"The water had drawn back initially, leaving fish lying on the beach and when the local people went out to see this the water rushed in again.

"There were little shack houses by the water-side and the wave just destroyed them.

"We were told that there were around 20-25 people killed there."

On becoming apparent that Penang had been hit, the travel company got tourists out of the area within 12 hours, moving Susan and her husband to Kuala Lumpur further inland.

Discussing their lucky escape, Susan told of the moment that she first heard of the disaster. She said:

"We were in Singapore having lunch when we saw on TV that Phuket was affected.

"It was just totally shocking. The scale of it was unbelievable.

"Fifteen hours after hearing about the disaster, we were due to be in Phuket. We were as lucky as it was possible to be."

As the magnitude of the catastrophe became apparent, Susan then made a frantic call to her mother Anne in Portpatrick to let her know that they were safe.

"She had been really worried," said Susan.

Copyright 1999 STI Small Towns InitiativeTop of Page