Boxing Day Tsunami: A survivor's story

A file picture dated 29 December 2004 shows destroyed holiday bungalows on Phi Phi island, Thailand Image copyright EPA

Ten years ago the Indian Ocean tsunami struck on Boxing Day. A series of huge waves triggered by an earthquake killed more than 230,000 people in 14 countries. Edie Fassnidge lost both her mother and sister in the tsunami. She and her boyfriend were both injured but survived. They were kayaking at Krabi in Thailand when the waves came.

The sky was a brilliant blue the day death came to Thailand's beaches. It was a day that changed Edie Fassnidge's life forever.

It is a day she will never forget.

"We set off on Boxing Day morning for a day of kayaking," she recalls. Her mother, 53-year-old Sally Macgill, and younger sister Alice Macgill, 23, were holidaying in Thailand with Edie and her boyfriend, now husband, Matt Fassnidge.

"We hired two kayaks and set off from Ao Nang beach and spent a few minutes paddling across the sea," recalls Edie.

Horizon 'looked wrong'

"We came to rest at a beautiful spot with limestone columns jutting out of the sea. I felt so happy at that moment I wanted to take a picture of my mother and sister.

"When I lowered my camera the air felt different somehow. It felt wrong. I looked out to sea and in the very distance I could see a ridge - a wave - moving towards us across the sea which was otherwise flat. I knew something was very wrong."

Image copyright AFP/getty images
Image caption A photo shows tourists in the path of the tsunami near Krabi, southern Thailand

But nearly a mile out to sea there was no chance of escape.

"I don't really remember when the wave hit me but it knocked me straight into a solid cliff face and I was tumbling under the water pushed by the force of the wave for what felt like minutes until I surfaced and saw my family all there alive," she says.

"But unfortunately another wave came and the same thing happened. I was knocked against the rock face again and when I eventually surfaced they had been swept away."

Her mother's body was later recovered, but Alice's was never found. She remains one of the missing.

Image caption Matt, Alice, Edie and Sally in Thailand

Despite being badly injured, Edie managed to wait for the water levels to drop then crawled through a gap in the rocks.

Cut and bleeding, she dragged herself away from the cliffs until she came to a beach. There she was reunited with Matt, also injured but alive.

"It was incredible. One of the best moments of my life. I had prepared myself on the rocks I could be the only one who survived. But Matt survived."

Image caption Matt and Edie, who are now married

After hospital treatment in Thailand she returned to the UK to a life transformed by loss.

"My mum and sister and I were incredibly close," says Edie, who lives in Crouch End, north London.

"My mum was a strong passionate and loving mother. Alice was one of the most funny, loving, light-hearted people to be around. She made you feel good."

Deadly tsunami

  • 26 December 2004
  • Triggered by 8.9 magnitude earthquake near Aceh, north Indonesia, at 07:59 local time (00:59 GMT)
  • Affected 14 countries
  • Nearly quarter of a million people died
  • Two million left homeless

When she died, Alice, who grew up in the Yorkshire Dales, was studying to be a music teacher at Goldsmiths College in London. Edie decided to remember her sister by sharing her love of music with others.

She set up a charity called Music For Alice. It raises funds then gives grants to groups who use music to change lives.

Image caption Alice was a talented musician who excelled at the cello

On a cold, dark Monday evening, Edie makes her first visit to one of the organisations benefitting from the charity's grants.

Energy Youth Centre is in a former military drill hall in Eastleigh, Hampshire. Up to 300 children and young people, aged between 11 and 25, visit each month. At the centre's heart is its music studio, newly replenished thanks to a £1,000 grant from Music for Alice.

Edie is warmly greeted by project worker Amy Johnson, busy preparing to open the doors to dozens of teenagers.

Image caption Edie at a memorial to the 155 UK victims of the tsunami at London's Natural History Museum

As she shows Edie the studio, Amy tells her: "We bought new guitars, new drum kit and replaced our amps and speakers. We were able to give our music studio a new lease of life."

She continues: "Music is integral to the work that we do here. It empowers our young people to make positive choices in their lives.

"For them it is one of the most important forms of expression. It raises their aspirations, builds confidence and helps self-esteem."

Image caption Edie (centre) with the band

On a raised stage, three young people are tuning up on drums, keyboard and guitars. Edie watches and listens attentively as they begin an energetic performance of classic blues tune, Mustang Sally.

On the drums is Sammy Guppy, 17, a music student at the Academy of Music and Sound in Southampton.

She says: "Before I came to the youth centre I couldn't play any instruments. I learned the drums and now drums is my absolute life. I couldn't imagine how I would be without it. It's so much fun learning new things."

'Tears in eyes'

Playing the guitar alongside her is Jamie Buckingham, 17, studying at the same academy.

"Music is my life," he says. "I came here and I met other musicians. I'm now playing gigs all over Hampshire.

"It's not just us who will use these instruments. They're going to be handed down for people to come here. This equipment will never get old. It will always be special to this youth centre."

Image caption Alice's memory lives on through the charity

Listening to the young people play, Edie is clearly moved.

"It's brilliant to see this," she says.

"I actually had tears in my eyes when I started watching them. It made me think that Alice would be really proud and really happy with what we are doing to remember her today."

Image caption Alice and Sally, who was a professor of environmental science at Leeds University

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