JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa
10 year-old Tilly Smith is a Tsunami hero. The British girl was on holiday with her family in Phuket, Thailand on December 26th, 2004. Thanks to a recent geography lesson at school she saved the lives of her family from Oxshott, Surrey, England, and 100 other vacationers in Asia after warning them that a "tidal wave" was coming.
Mai Khao Beach Before 12.26.04
Tilly saw the signs at the Mai Khao Beach resort last Sunday. When the sea rushed out and began to bubble, she said to her mother:
Mummy, we must get off the beach now!
I think there's going to be a tsunami.
A tidal wave.
At first the adults doubted the little girl. But when they heard the words "tidal wave" they understood and responded.
Initially, Tilly froze in horror. Then she began to run.
Minutes before the deadly tide rushed in and destroyed the resort, her words spread like wildfire.
As a result, the beach was evacuated within seconds.
Reuters Captures Nearby Patong Beach Rubble
Thanks to Tilly, it was one of the rare shorelines of Phuket where no one was killed or seriously injured.
Tilly played down the attention. She modestly said:
Last term, my geography teacher, Mr. Kearney, taught us about earthquakes and how they can cause tsunamis.
Danes Prep School -- Surrey England
I was on the beach, and the water started to go funny.
I recognized what was happening and had a feeling there was going to be a tsunami.
Thanks to Mr. Kearney's geography lesson at Danes Hill Prep School in England, the ten year-old saved her own life, as well as her mother, Penny Smith's, 43, her father, Colin's, 46, her 7-year-old younger sister, Holly's, and at least 100 other tourists' at the resort.
Tilly's headteacher Robin Parfitt responded by saying that Tilly had "sharpness and wisdom beyond her years".
Mr. Kearney said he remembered teaching Tilly and her fellow students that after the sea was sucked backwards, the next five to ten minutes were crucial for people to survive.
He said her quick-witted actions were typical.
Mr. Kearney added:
I'm stunned at the news, but so relieved she and her family are safe.
Phuket's Nearby Chedi Resort -- Photo Credit: AFP's Joanne Davis
Tilly is a very bright level-headed girl.
Nothing illustrates her character more than her brave actions in a terrifying situation.
Tilly's family was enjoying a warm Christmas vacation away from a cold, wet England before tragedy struck.
The JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa was an oasis, commanding ten miles of Phuket's untouched, unspoiled Mai Khao Beach, on Phuket, Thailand.
The low, sweeping design of the resort with its rock walls, broad reflection ponds, water features and ornate roofing has an imperial presence.
It has been described as a mythic palace of relaxation.
Tilly's mother said:
When the water went back, I was like most people on the beach. I wanted to walk down and look at what was going on.
It was only when Tilly explained what she thought was going to happen that I had second thoughts.
We ran off the beach as fast as we could and went to the first floor of the hotel where it would be safe.
Minutes later the water surged right over the beach and demolished everything in its path.
It was terrifying to watch.
But I'm very proud of my daughter.
On December 27th, it was reported that the resort was still operating after the horrendous Tsunami wave hit Phuket which resulted from the world's largest earthquake in four decades. The waves virtually destroyed the beach but claimed no lives.
Tourism is the lifeblood of this beautiful island in southern Thailand. This is the peak for overseas visitors who are typically escaping the depth of northern winters for warm, dry land.
In response to pleas from the Thai tourist board, the Smith family decided to finish their holiday in Thailand rather than head home to England for the new year.
Well done Tilly, Mr. Kearney, Danes Hill Prep School in Northern England, and all those who listened to this smart little girl.
Meanwhile, we continue to pray for the families affected by the 150,000 people reported dead and the millions of people left homeless around the shores of the Indian Ocean.
Thank you to one of our loyal readers who brought this story to our attention.
Inspire & Be Inspired (R).
Here's to healthy, adventuresome, soulful, "listening to our children" living!
~ Jennifer Carolyn King
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