Suffolk tourist captures Thailand panic

WHEN Jessica Ball arrived in Thailand shortly before Christmas, she had no idea that her holiday snaps would capture the horror of one of the world's worst-ever natural disasters.

WHEN Jessica Ball arrived in Thailand shortly before Christmas, she had no idea that her holiday snaps would capture the horror of one of the world's worst-ever natural disasters.

As 23-year-old Jessica, whose parents live in Cliff Lane, Ipswich, and her boyfriend Will Houston travelled on a ferry to the holiday paradise of Phuket, they were given the instruction everyone dreads.

They were told to put on lifejackets because a tidal wave was coming.

"At this point there was real panic," Jessica said as she sent us these exclusive pictures from her sanctuary in Singapore.

The other pictures were taken after the boat reached the safety of another island between Phi Phi and Phuket - at a refuge and showing emergency services in action.

Jessica and Will were able to make their way to Singapore after the disaster - and are hoping to return home tomorrow.

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"Mum I'm badly battered and bruised, but I'm alive."

After 36 hours fearing her son had been killed in the massive Boxing Day earthquake that has devastated Asia, Margaret Burrows finally got the call she had been praying for.

Her son Richard, 40, had been holidaying in Sri Lanka when the huge underwater earthquake sent giant waves crashing into coastline, causing untold damage and destroying lives.

Thousands of people have been killed and the death toll is still rising following what is the largest earthquake in 40 years.

Mr Burrows, a teacher who lives in Tokyo, was enjoying a holiday on the South West Coast of Sri Lanka when the earthquake struck.

Speaking from the family home in Bixley Farm, Ipswich, Margaret told how she was terrified she had lost her son - and her joy at the brief phone call he managed to make.

She also described how Richard had been sleeping in his holiday home when he woke to find seawater crashing through windows and doors.

"He was in bed at 8am on Boxing Day, he felt water in the bed around his feet. He said it was instantly around his waist and before he could think straight it was up to his neck and he had to start swimming.

"He got out and was clinging on to a coconut tree."

Richard managed to keep hold of the tree until the waters subsided - revealing the extent of devastation in the quiet area that is favoured by retired Britons who go there to set up home.

"He is very worried about his neighbours. The area he is in has got quite a few older people than him, people who are in their sixties, it's a very quiet area and people choose to live there for that reason. Now they have lost everything and it is their home."

Richard visits Sri Lanka three times a year and eventually plans to retire there, said Margaret, who believes his survival is thanks to his quick reactions.

"He was coherent and with it when we spoke, he's a survivor and he can think quickly which is a help.

"It had been a terrible 36 hours here, we spent most of yesterday trying to get through to the Foreign Office but the lines are constantly jammed."

It was thanks to the help of a passer-by that Richard was able to get in touch with his family.

"He said he saw a man dressed in western clothes walking on the beach, he spoke to him and the man suggested he borrowed his mobile phone to call us.

"When the phone call came at 4am, we knew it had to be him. We're over the moon quite literally.

"If it had been later he would have been washed away, he's a beach lover and we were terrified he wouldn't have got away from the beach in time.

"We had feared the worst, I really did think that this was the end for him, it felt as though the earth had been cut from under me and you can't think straight.

"When the phone rang I think I hit it at 90 miles an hour and he just said, 'Mum, I'm badly battered and bruised but I'm alive.

"I don't think it has all hit me yet, but I can't describe the relief.

"He can't get out of Sri Lanka until January 5 and we're not due to see him until July but he said 'I really want to see you now' and we want to see him too."

Former Ipswich businessman Chris Revett, 52, and his wife Belinda, along with their two adopted children, also had a lucky escape when the waves hit Phuket.

The former owner of Revett motorbike shop, on Norwich Road, retired to Rawai four years ago.

He called his friend Chris Sutton, who only returned from Phuket two weeks ago to his home in Ipswich, about half an hour after the tsunami hit.

Mr Sutton said: "They live inland about two miles from the beach. All the local businesses where he goes locally have been wiped out like matchsticks. The shops and restaurants have gone.

"They managed to escape unharmed and they are now looking after friends and families from the beach areas that have been devastated. There are about six to eight people living with them at the moment."

Do you know anyone caught up in the devastation? Contact the Evening Star newsdesk on 01473-324788 or e-mail