A survivor's story

Luc was staying in a guesthouse on Kamala beach Keystone Archive

A young Bernese man, "Luc", was in Phuket when the tsunamis smashed into the popular Thai beach resort. This is a message he sent to family and friends.

This content was published on December 31, 2004

Luc declined to be interviewed but allowed swissinfo to reproduce this email. He asked us not to reveal his full name.

“Thanks to everyone who was worried about me. I don’t know why I got away unscathed, without even a scratch. I even managed to salvage all my possessions (perhaps because I could pack everything within five seconds).

“Kamala beach on the island of Phuket was hit by a 12-metre wave travelling at 400km/h with all the force of the ocean behind it. Kamala doesn’t exist anymore.

“I was in one of the few guesthouses that was solid enough not to be swept away. I was in a tiny room because the place was totally booked up for Christmas.

"I had the good fortune to develop a cold the night before, so was not on the beach. I don’t know why I opened the glass doors when the first wave came, but if I hadn’t I would have been cut to ribbons.

Washed away

“Everything below the first floor was completely washed away. The first wave tore through the building carrying half-dead people along with it. Some were just an arm-length or two away from me, but there was no way I could grab them.

When the water receded they were dead.

The tsunamis could have left it at that because by the time the second wave hit, there was nothing left to destroy. The wave just brought back the dead. The death toll will continue to rise, that is certain. Many of those killed will never be found.

“I can’t tell you anymore. This is my story and you won’t understand.


“What’s perverse is that 500 metres inland, and ten metres above sea level, everything is as it always was. There was no panic, no clean-up problems, the mobiles phones are still working, the weather is lovely.

The Thais don’t show sorrow openly, don’t reveal their pain. They are masters of their emotions. I can’t and won’t be like that. I want to know and admit to what I’ve experienced and what I’ve survived.

I intend to stay here a while longer so as not to forget what happened. I need to get things in order in my mind so I understand what I’ve seen. At home, one might be inclined to suppress these things but that’s not going to happen to me.

“I won’t set foot in this ocean again. And once the mass exodus of tourists is over, I’m heading east.

“I’m sorry to be sending this depressing message from abroad – my previous message was certainly more cheerful.

In this one, I wanted to talk about other things. About the Thais, and about Christmas in Phuket. To sing the praises of the railways and the architecture. To talk about how the food has gone down and to send some sarcastic greetings.

“But there’s nothing left.

“Be grateful to be alive. Every day.

“Lucky Luc”

You can share your experiences in our forum by clicking on the animated icon at the bottom of this page.

In brief

Luc was staying at a guesthouse on Kamala beach when the tsunamis hit.

He managed to escape unhurt but saw several of his fellow guests drowned.

He sent this email to family and friends concerned about his fate.

End of insertion
In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Almost finished... We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you.

Discover our weekly must-reads for free!

Sign up to get our top stories straight into your mailbox.

The SBC Privacy Policy provides additional information on how your data is processed.