Family tells of parents' quake escape
EXCLUSIVEBy Becky HallewellA FAMILY from East Anglia whose parents narrowly escaped death in Thailand as the catastrophic tidal wave struck have spoken of their terrifying ordeal.
By Becky Hallewell
A FAMILY from East Anglia whose parents narrowly escaped death in Thailand as the catastrophic tidal wave struck have spoken of their terrifying ordeal.
Bette Allen, 61, and her husband John, 56, left their grown-up children at home in Tiptree at Christmas and jetted to Thailand to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
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Their dream trip of a lifetime took them to one of the country's coastal resorts on the island of Phuket, but it turned into a living nightmare.
Their daughter Joanne Talbot, 38, said she had been woken up at 4am on Boxing Day by her traumatised mother's phone call.
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She recalled: "My 16-year-old daughter Tonya answered the phone and was absolutely hysterical. People were screaming in the background. My mother was so panicked. She said if they'd been in bed, they would not have stood a chance.
"I was scared to death and just wanted them home. A Swedish lady had lent mum the phone. Without it, we would not have known if she was dead or alive."
After a call only lasting a few minutes, Ms Talbot ran to her brother's and contacted the holiday company Saga.
"We stayed up all night, just sat by the phone waiting and watching the news. It was terrible. After the waves, they had to walk through sewage and water at chest level. You can't imagine what people have gone through over there," she said.
"An old lady they met was swept away. But all through it my dad refused to leave my mum's side. All they had was a beach bag, no passport, no clothes or anything. And although Saga said they were on a safe list, I kept ringing them back."
A later call from a Bangkok hotel assured the family that both their parents were alive, although Mrs Allen had been unable to sleep since the ordeal and was suffering from flashbacks.
However, without passports or money, it was uncertain how soon the couple could be home - but last night they were travelling to Heathrow Airport to the waiting arms of their children and what was sure to be a euphoric welcome at home.
"I will just grab them. We've got a bottle of champagne ready. It was in the fridge for New Year's Eve, but there's no doubt we'll have a drink and we've done some sandwiches," said Ms Talbot.
"I've said to a friend, I will never have a cross word with them again. They could have been dead. There's nothing ever to worry about again when something like this happens to you. It's been terrible.
"I don't think they'll ever go that far away again - and all they've got to show for it is a scratch on my Dad's big toe."