Brothers tell of heroic rescue effort

TWO brothers have told of their heroic efforts to rescue victims of the Asian tsunami disaster.Aleksis and Jake Zarins, from Southwold, also had the grim task of taking photographs of dead bodies to help with identification before burying the corpses to help prevent the spread of disease.

TWO brothers have told of their heroic efforts to rescue victims of the Asian tsunami disaster.

Aleksis and Jake Zarins, from Southwold, also had the grim task of taking photographs of dead bodies to help with identification before burying the corpses to help prevent the spread of disease.

Aleksis, 24, and Jake, 27, had been on holiday in the Unawatuna Bay area of Sri Lanka when the giant waves struck.

“I was asleep in my hotel room when the first wave hit but I was woken by the terrible rumbling noise and the sound of screams,” said Aleksis.


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They were staying in the Rock House Hotel, one of the few buildings left standing after the devastating surge of water.

“There was so much debris and there were a lot of bodies in the water,” he said,” he said.

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“We managed to pull as many people as we could from the all the debris and help them up to the hotel and higher ground.

“Everyone did whatever they could to help and it was a real team effort,” he said.

The two brothers were part of an eight-man team that helped carry a 25-stone injured man to safety on a homemade stretcher.

Aleksis added: “When it became clear that such a wide area was affected we had to do what we could to survive.

“There were a lot of bodies at the hotel which was not good as the building was also being used to house the injured and sick.

“We had to bury those that we could and the Sri Lankans were able to identify the vast majority of the local victims.”

He said he photographed many of the western victims and made a record of where they were buried before passing the information on to the authorities.

“There was no way of identifying the western tourists or even knowing what country they came from so we had no choice,” he said.

“It was like something out of a horror story and not something I would ever want to happen to anyone ever again.”

As he recovered from his ordeal at his Southwold home, Aleksis urged everyone to support the emergency appeals for aid.

“The only reason I am speaking out about what happened to my brother and myself is to highlight the great need for assistance.

“The people we met out there were so warm and friendly and even after the disaster were still trying to help each other and the western tourists,” he said.

“There is a desperate need for fresh water and other essential supplies otherwise the final death toll will rise even more.”

Jake Zarins, at his home in London, added: “It was not just Aleksis and I that were helping. Our friend Nick Keegan, of Halesworth, who was with us was among the large group of people doing all they could.

“There were also two doctors in our group and they were vital in treating the injured,” he said.

Jake, who lived in Suffolk until he was 17, said they had originally travelled to Sri Lanka to attend a colleague's wedding in November but had decided to stay on for an extended holiday because they liked the area so much.

“We got to know the local people very well and that has made all this so very difficult to bear,” he said.

“I believe I have not fully come to terms with just how terrible this disaster has been.”

Their father, Peter Zarins, of Zarins Antiques in Southwold, said he was greatly relieved that his sons had made it home safe.

“We know just how lucky we have been because there are so many families all over the world who are having to deal with their own personal tragedies,” he said.

Another relieved parent was Denise Burrows, of Chediston Green, near Halesworth.

Her 29-year-old daughter Victoria Butler, a former Bungay High School pupil, had been on honeymoon in the Maldives when the tidal wave struck.

“When we saw the news we were extremely worried but Victoria has contacted us by text to say they are safe but they still do not know when they will be able to return to this country as there is so much confusion,” said Ms Burrows.

“My prayers go out for those that still have family missing and I can't think of the pain that they must be going through.”

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