Tsunami Survivor Recounts Watery Escape

Khov Chhengkim is one of five Cambodians who survived the earthquake and tsunami Dec 26 that ravaged 11 countries, including India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

“I did not expect that I could stand here in my house, my country again,” Khov Chheng­kim, 24, said. “I thought that my life would end and my dead body would be left in Thailand.”

She spoke from her Phnom Penh house on Thursday of the terrible waves that hit the Thai island of Phuket and made her and her family run for their lives.

Khov Chhengkim and her two aunts, Taing Ly Kheng, 65, and Sou Lang, 40, went to Phuket with her brother Khov Seang Ngun, 36, for his honeymoon with Cambodian-Australian Cheam Kirimoden, 22.

They were accompanied by her cousin Seng Aing, 24, and Cambodian-Australians La Leng, 50, Kinh Nailinn, 21, and Kinh Vicheth, 23.

The family arrived in Phuket Dec 26, the day the tsunami stuck. Their boat to the island was grounded by the increasingly high waves, so they were forced to walk to the beach on foot.

“When all of my relatives and other western tourists got out of the boat and stood on the beach, the sea started to get high and the waves increased very fast,” Kinh Nailinn said.

She said about 300 tourists started running toward a tall hotel building, the sea water right on their heels.

“A strong wave hit the hotel and all the windows and doors were broken,” she said. “The sound of glass breaking en­hanced our fears.”

When the family reached the second floor, another wave hit the first floor, said Khov Seang Ngun. They moved to another building that was taller, before deciding to risk walking on the beach to reach an even higher mountain.

“I heard only the voice of crying from western tourists who lost wives, children or husbands,” Cheam Kirimoden added. The fa­mi­ly returned home on Dec 29.



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