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American who survived tsunami tells of devastation

Regular guest on 'Oprah' safe, but friend missing in Sri Lanka

Nate Berkus
Sri Lanka
Oprah Winfrey
Chicago (Illinois)

(CNN) -- A celebrity interior decorator vacationing in Sri Lanka said Monday that all he could see was "utter devastation" in the wake of a deadly tsunami that slammed the island.

"We were completely devastated yesterday morning," Nate Berkus told CNN. "There was absolutely no warning."

Berkus, a regular contributor to "The Oprah Winfrey Show," said he and a friend were sleeping in a beachfront cottage at Arugam Bay on Sri Lanka's eastern coast when he heard a loud noise and the roof was ripped off.

Berkus, 33, said they were swept into the sea along with debris, animals and other people.

The two grabbed a telephone pole, he said, but lost their grips when a second large wave hit. Berkus told CNN that he climbed onto the roof of a home; his friend was missing.

Berkus said he and about 50 other survivors -- tourists and locals -- spent the rest of the night in a field, but were without water and food. Many of the group were injured, including a pregnant woman who had broken ribs, he said.

Members of the Sri Lankan army had taken a few of the injured away in helicopters, he said, and told the rest of the group that other helicopters would arrive at sunrise.

"It's just been utter devastation. Bodies everywhere," Berkus said. "I'm very scraped up, but luckily I'm OK ... against that kind of force of nature, there was nothing any of us could do."

Berkus said that lost everything he had with him.

"I'm sitting here with nothing -- no passport, no money, no anything, in shorts that somebody gave me ... the bottom line is, we desperately need help here."

Berkus is the founder of Nate Berkus Associates in Chicago, Illinois. He has made at least 20 appearances on "Oprah."

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