Eleven years ago today, a massive earthquake hit beneath the Indian ocean, triggering a tsunami that claimed over two million lives. It was one of the most destructive natural disasters ever, that devastated parts of Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India.
While no one – not even the meteorological department – could foresee the deadly waves, a 10-year-old girl spotted the unusual signals of tsunami and saved a 100 people, including her family, from dying.
Hailed as the miracle girl, here’s the story of Tilly Smith’s courage and foresight.
In the December of 2004, 10-year-old Tilly was vacationing with her parents and sister on Maikhao beach in Phuket, Thailand, when she saw the tides rushing out. The behaviour of sea waves reminded her of a video about a tsunami in Hawaii, that her teacher had shown during Geography class back in the UK.
In an interview with The Sun, she said:
“The sea was fizzing and there was froth on of the waves. I kept thinking, ‘I’ve seen this, I’ve seen this somewhere’. I felt something terrible was going to happen.”
When she first told her parents, they brushed her apprehensions aside, saying that it was just bad weather. But when she noticed a log spinning in circles in the sea, she was sure that it was an incoming tsunami, and that everyone was in a grave danger.
That is when she started shouting:
“Tsunami, there’s going to be a tsunami. We have to get off, we have to run.”
Seeing his daughter panic, Tilly’s father told a Japanese security guard about the fizzing sea waves. The guard was instantly alarmed as he was aware of the earthquake that had occurred in the Indian Ocean. He asked everyone on the beach to run towards the hotels. As Tilly recalled later:
“There was a family kayaking in the sea, people in the pool. Everyone started running, there was sheer panic.”
While people were running for their lives, and water gushed into the hotel lobby, Tilly asked everyone to stay on the high ground. As a result, everyone on the beach was saved. When her parents learned about the disaster’s magnitude through Television reports, they realized that if they hadn’t listened to Tilly, all of them would have died.
Tilly was named Child of the Year by a French children’s newspaper, and United Nations invited her to meet Bill Clinton, then the UN Special Envoy for Tsunami Relief.