Local couple tell of motor scooter race against tsunami

A LISMORE woman and her partner have just emailed in a harrowing story of how they raced the tsunami on a hired motor scooter while on holiday in Thailand. Norco worker Deb Bennie and her husband, Bruce, had been staying with their closest friends, Judene and Anton, in a beach bungalow at Khao Lak, an hour and a half north of Phuket. This is Deb's story: We had just finished breakfast when Bruce and Anton noticed the tide receding very quickly and sensed that something was wrong. One minute it was high tide, and the next the water was 1.5-2km out to sea. Next minute waves started breaking. Then it started to get bigger and BIGGER. Both guys had a very strong gut feeling and ran back to Judene and myself and told us to get our hire scooters and get away as quickly as possible. We were all extremely anxious and luckily both bikes started first kick. Then the only way to the main road was along a 2km rough dirt road, which ran parallel to the beach. As we rode we could see the wave growing in size. By this time it was about 300 metres out and it looked like the water was boiling, picking up debris and tonnes of sand on its way in. It was suddenly absolute chaos. The police were driving down the road towards us and blowing whistles and waving to people to get back from the beach. Unfortunately, most people didn't even understand what was happening and many were actually running towards the beach with cameras to have a look.

TOURISTS on motorcycles have been gawking at the devastation in Thai beach areas such as Khao Lak.Most people had no

Many people, including families with children, were swimming or sunbaking on the beach. Due to the speed of the tsunami, there was almost no chance for people to evacuate and most people didn't have cars or motorbikes.

Our hearts were pounding as we were riding down this dirt road, people panicking and screaming.

We just made it to the end of the street as the water was approaching the road with the most thunderous roar. We now had about another 1.5km to the highway.

The traffic was very congested and panicky.

Anton was nervously looking in his rearview mirror when he ran into our motorbike. They fell off their bike and I screamed to Bruce 'they're down'. We stopped and jumped off to assist them. Fortunately, their bike was still running and not too badly damaged and they were just scratched and bruised.

We rode to the base of a waterfall, some 5km inland, and climbed up the falls with another 20 people, mostly European and a few Thais.

We had no idea what was happening behind us and if we were far enough away yet. Everyone was in shock, some people standing there in only their bathers and thongs.

Two hours later, a Frenchman climbed up to where we were. He told us of his escape, but he had lost his wife and two baby girls, who he had been holding when he climbed to the top of a building.

The wave had collapsed the building and all he kept saying was, 'I couldn't hold on to them'.

There is no way to describe the feeling of pain, sadness and loss we were all experiencing. Oh God, it was unbearable.

We had another boy with us who had watched his mother and father dragged out to sea as some people in a ute picked him up by grabbing his arm.

We all collected firewood for the night and Anton found a Coke can for boiling water.

We had a packet of Mentos which we shared. We made a bed of fresh banana leaves and tried to stay warm by the fire.

The next morning we started down the mountain about 6am. About half way down we came across a group of Thai people who were so kind to us.

About 11am, we made a decision to try to ride back to the town. We were not prepared for the sight and smell that greeted us.

It was so hard not to crumble, as there were people in shock and mourning everywhere. Bodies and debris littered the scene. Trucks and utes were bagging and loading dead, bloated bodies all the way along the road.

Not one building stood between the highway and the beach where we had been staying.

Where there had been hundreds of resorts and shops, everything was gone completely.

It appears that virtually everyone perished in this area.



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