Survivor Narratives: 2004

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Du’s Story of Survival when the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami Struck

A bookkeeper nicknamed “Du” worked at the Golden Buddha Beach Resort just off the coast of Thailand. At about 9 a.m. on the morning of December 26, 2004, she heard a thunderous sound in the direction of the ocean. Staff and guests rushed to the beach thinking that perhaps an airplane had crashed into the sea. When they arrived at the beach, there was no downed aircraft, only a thin white line along the horizon. 

Du Pointing to the place where she spent the first night after the tsunami.

They stood and watched in wonder as the white line drew progressively closer and grew in size. Finally realizing she was in danger, Du ran from the beach and managed to grab hold of a tree just before the water reached her. “I was so scared that I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t… the wave hit me and took me into the ocean.”

“I tried to grab something to hold, because I’m not a good swimmer.” Du managed to catch a floating cushion and held on for dear life. After drifting for about two hours, she saw two people floating on a big sofa, and swam to them.

Soon they realized that they were being washed farther and farther from shore. Knowing that if another wave came before they reached shore, they would probably all die, they began praying and swimming as hard as they could. 

Finally they reached the beach and helped drag each other from the turbulent water. Once on land, Du headed for a small hill known as Monkey Mountain. She was greeted by staff and guests who had also found refuge on the hill. Some were injured, all were wet and hungry, and many had witnessed their friends or loved ones perish. Together they spent a night of pain, grief and misery during which, in a strange irony, Du was attacked and bitten by a crazed monkey.

Rescue came on the morning of December 27th, when helicopters landed to evacuate the injured, while the others were taken by motorboat to the mainland. A total of four Thai staff and nine foreign guests died at the Golden Buddha Beach Resort.