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Rich and famous alike caught up in Asia's tsunami terror

Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 29 December 2004 1154 hrs
Copyright 2004 Agence France Presse/ Channel News Asia

HONG KONG : Rich and poor alike were swept up by Asia's killer tsunami, with a supermodel, multi-millionare football players, royalty and movie stars among those running for their lives.

Czech supermodel Petra Nemcova clung to a palm tree for eight hours in the devastated Thai resort of Khao Lak after being hit by a wall of water in Sunday's deadly tidal waves, her publicist in New York said.

Her British boyfriend, fashion photographer Simon Atlee, is missing.

"People were screaming and kids were screaming all over the place, screaming 'help, help'. And after a few minutes you didn't hear the kids any more," Nemcova told The New York Daily News from her hospital bed in Thailand.

"There were so many people with horrible injuries, with blood everywhere. It was like a war movie," she said.

The 25-year-old, who has graced the front cover of Sports Illustrated's special swimsuit issue and also modeled Victoria's Secret lingerie line, suffered a broken pelvis and internal injuries.

There was no lucky escape for Bhumi Jensen, the 21-year-old grandson of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej who was killed at the same popular resort area when the waves struck.

"It's a national tragedy," said a grim-faced Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The monarchy is revered in Thailand.

Bhumi is the son of Princess Ubolratana and her estranged American husband Peter Jensen.

He was holidaying with his mother at the time but she was safe.

British actor and film director Richard Attenborough was also in mourning after the death of his grandaughter in the Thai catastrophe.

Lucy was among a family group staying on Phuket island, said Diana Hawkins, a colleague and friend of the Attenborough family. Attenborough's eldest daughter Jane is missing, as is her mother-in-law, Jane Holland.

"Lord (Richard) Attenborough and his wife, Sheila, have lost three members of their immediate family in the tidal wave disaster that hit the beaches of Thailand on Boxing Day morning," said a statement from Hawkins.

The 81-year-old is one of the most successful actors and directors Britain has ever produced, finding fame appearing in films such as "Brighton Rock" and "The Great Escape".

As a director, his biggest triumph was "Gandhi", which won eight Oscars in 1983, including best film and best director.

Chinese action hero Jet Li survived the horror on the picture-postcard Maldive islands, sustaining minor injuries when the tidal wave triggered by an undersea earthquake off Indonesia swamped the hotel where he was staying.

Li, who starred in Hollywood flicks including "Lethal Weapon 4" and "Romeo Must Die" grabbed his four-year-old daughter when their hotel room started to flood and escaped, the Singtao Daily reported, citing his management.

Stars of the sporting arena were also caught up in the tsunami nightmare that has left more than 55,000 people dead.

A number of Italian football players were also holidaying in the Maldives when the full force of the tidal wave hit, Gazzetta dello Sport reported.

Among them were AC Milan's Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Filippo Inzaghi and Cristian Brocchi, and Juventus defender Gianluca Zambrotta.

The newspaper's website said they were safe.

Sri Lankan cricket spin king Muttiah Muralitharan declared himself "lucky to be alive" after narrowly missing one of the tsunamis that killed over 17,000 people in his home country.

Muralitharan told the Sydney Morning Herald he drove out of the southern city of Galle just minutes before it was swamped by a massive surge of water.

Among others fleeing the tragedy in southern Sri Lanka was former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was helicoptered from his guesthouse at Talpe, a suburb of Galle.

Back in Thailand, skiing great Ingemar Stenmark ran for his life when he saw an immense wave heading towards him in Khok Kloi, offshore from Phuket.

"The water from the first wave disappeared, but then it came back with terrifying speed," Stenmark, who won two gold medals at the 1980 Olympics, told Swedish media.

Australian AFL star Troy Broadbridge was not so lucky, being swept away from his wife as the strolled along a Phuket beach, his club Melbourne Demons said. - AFP


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