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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

A look at Tsunami Disaster and Survivors

Aired January 8, 2005 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Tony Harris at the CNN Center in Atlanta. A special "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" begins in 60 seconds, but first now in the news at this hour.
The Tsunami death toll is now above 155,000 and it may rise considerably. That fear comes after Indonesia revised its number of missing tenfold to 77,000. The U.N. has launched a massive food relief effort. The goal is to feed up to 2 million Tsunami survivors for six months.

Israel may reconsider its pledge to keep troops out of Palestinian cities during the election. That word follows an Israeli report that an off duty soldier was killed by a Palestinian gunman. Nearly two million Palestinians are expected to go to the polls tomorrow to elect a new leader.

And the West Coast is getting hit with another round of winter storms. Soggy San Francisco is bracing for perhaps five inches of rain by Tuesday. In the Sierra Nevada, tremendous amounts of snow. Some areas may see six feet. There's already nine feet on the ground in spots.

More news coming up at the top of the hour, "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" begins right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That wave is a good 15, 20 feet tall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounded like a landslide, an earthquake, a plane crashing and a train wreck all at the same time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We ran for our lives but it caught us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know it's an unbelievable sequence of events that enabled me to escape in the first place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lost my boat, my house and my family.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are petrified. We wonder now can we continue our livelihood on the high seas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're in complete and utter shock. They can't believe this has happened to them. It's like a nightmare and they can't wake up from it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: It struck without warning leaving an ocean of misery in its wake. The Asian tsunami is a catastrophe of epic proportion, so overwhelming it's difficult at times to even find the words to describe it and yet the stories keep coming from those who survived, from those who rushed to help and from those who are covering this unimaginable human drama.

Here's Jim Clancy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tsunami.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's coming again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It happened so fast in five seconds. We left a beautiful island and we came back to just hell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) see are dead bodies, children and women mangled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The devastation is unbelievable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it was just so horrible.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're the voices of the tsunami telling stories that need few words to tell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm searching for my mother (UNINTELLIGIBLE). She's from Holland. She's 53 years old.

CLANCY: Stories of life and love and loss, stories of fundamental human emotion from a disaster that strains human comprehension.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I made it but it's not fair all the people that didn't make it.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sheer scale of the devastation, it's on a level that I think nobody has seen before at least in this lifetime.

CLANCY: Stories of hope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I still have hopes that my parents are alive searching for me in tension. I'm all right, papa and mamma. Please come back again.

CLANCY: Stories of grief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I lost everyone and everything. My four children and my husband are gone, gone. CLANCY: Stories of resilience.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we are all together we can stand. If we divide, we fall. At this moment we should stand together.

CLANCY: The story of an 8-year-old boy reaching out to soothe a crying woman, the story of the last man standing in the ruins of a town of 10,000 people, a town that no longer exists.

In a world profoundly changed, it's easy to forget that December 26 was once just a sleepy Sunday morning in Asia. In India and Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, it started out like any other day, children playing, people working, streets busy, life as usual.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My plan was to grow old gracefully here.

CLANCY: Naturalized Australian David Lyons (ph) lives on the seashore in Indonesia in (UNINTELLIGIBLE), a surfer he had moved there for the waves, built his dream house and married a local woman, Nurma (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what I do is I get up in the morning and I so surfing and I have some coffee and I eat fruit and we have a lot of good fun here.

CLANCY: In Thailand, Ron Ruben (ph) and Rebecca Battle (ph) were doing the same thing thousands of other tourists were doing, vacationing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an absolute tropical paradise of just miles and miles of perfect sandy beaches, palm trees, you know, Christmas Day families walking on the beach. It was something you'd see on a postcard.

CLANCY: CNN Correspondent Satinder Bindra was in Sri Lanka, a nation with a history of civil war and turmoil, observing a country on the rebound.

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As peace talks have taken hold, some prosperity returned to this island nation. Shops began to open up. Commerce and trade started to flourish. New hotels started to come up and tourists, who had once deserted this beautiful island, started to return in large numbers.

CLANCY: But deep beneath the sea, off the coast of Indonesia, the world was shifting.

PROF. JOHN EBEI, BOSTON COLLEGE (voice-over): You have the fault right here and this part of the Indian Ocean actually slid under the island of Sumatra and the islands to the north.

CLANCY: The result an earthquake so large it would affect the rotation of the earth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I was still in bed. I was awake. We felt the earthquake. We ran outside, got the people that were in the house with us. There was five of us in all, waited the earthquake out and were getting provisions.

CLANCY: The quake was detected around the world, including at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, which monitors the Pacific Ocean for the dangerous waves.

PROF. JOSE BORRERO, UNIV. OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: They have a network of seismometers and tsunami detectors actually out in the ocean so if something like this were to happen they would know several hours in advance before it reached the distant shores.

CLANCY: The center issued a bulletin on an 8.0 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean, noting "no threat exists for the Pacific region." Fifty minutes later, another bulletin raising the strength of the earthquake to 8.5 and adding "there is the possibility of a tsunami near the epicenter." The Indian Ocean and the countries that surround it have no warning system.

BORRERO: The people who felt the ground shaking, that was their warning.

CLANCY: Unexpected and unannounced, a deadly wall of water was heading for land at speeds up to 500 miles per hour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That wave is a good 15, 20 feet tall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Easy.

CLANCY: When this special edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues the tsunami's deadly impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way any person can tell you what emotion you feel when you see a wall of water one story high flood the lobby of a hotel, park three cars in the back of the lobby and you see people swirling around in that.

CLANCY: And later, the voices of survival.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't describe it. I'm just so glad to be home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLANCY (voice-over): The day began unremarkably for many on the shores of the Indian Ocean but the wave speeding out from the earthquake's epicenter would change forever the lives of unsuspecting thousands.

CNN's Satinder Bindra was on holiday in Sri Lanka.

BINDRA: There was absolutely no advance warning of the tsunami. In fact, the only thing unusual that I can remember was that the sea was noisy the night before.

The morning of, I stepped off onto the balcony and I noticed the tide had come in. The waters had been rising quite fast and hundreds of people were out on the street, out on the shore.

They were watching what was happening. People had brought out their cameras.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, where's Jordan?

BINDRA: Suddenly, the water started spilling across the street from where I was and coming right towards us. Then I knew something unusual was going on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, tsunami! My God, it's coming in! Big one!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. I see it coming. I know I can see it. That wave is a good...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...15, 20 feet tall, easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in! Get in! Get in!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wave hit and we have big waves in the channel. It wasn't the wave. It was -- the wave that hit but there was a solid wall behind it and it just kept coming. Nothing was going to stop that wave and it wasn't -- it was just the biggest wave I've ever seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's coming again, coming again, bigger. Oh, my God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the sound of the muffled booming coming from the sea, I thought that has to be waves.

CLANCY: As a surfer, David Lyons (ph) knew the look of waves and he knew that this one was different and deadly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I run to the edge of the property where the river is. I could see a big wave coming in, which was about 12 meters or so and I've gone that's got to wash over this little sand spit here and it's got to come into the land. Let's go. As I looked in the rear view mirror, the wave is taller than a man and it's just the debris pushing right through as the stick figures ahead of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God. This is a tidal wave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were having coffee and the woman in the coffee shop said to us, "The water is too high" and she kept saying that. Not a minute later, she screamed, run, and we all just started running and we ran for about several streets with the water right at our heels. CLANCY: Those who couldn't outrun the rushing waters were swept up in them. They struggled to stay afloat. As his train was washed away in Sri Lanka, Shinthra (ph) Bindra helped those he could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a little panic, you know, a lot of people hysterical. A lot of the children were grabbing hold of me and people around. And there was one particular mother who had about three or four children around and obviously, she didn't have enough arms to hold her children. She was imploring me to grab hold of her children and look after her children, which I did. So, I was trying to grab hold of as many people as possible, as well as secure myself in the train for when the second, second wave hit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So crazy, it was unbelievable and at one point I thought I couldn't hold on and bodies were flowing by and that motivated me to maybe hang on a little longer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was awoken by this crashing noise. It sounded like a landslide, an earthquake, a plane crashing and a train wreck all at the same time.

CLANCY: At their Thai resort, Ron Ruben (ph) and Rebecca Battle (ph) rushed to find higher ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I jumped out of bed and I ran for the door. When I looked down, I could see the water coming through the first floor of the hotel. The pool was turning from blue to brown. The whole first floor of the hotel was under water.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It happened so fast in five seconds and there was no time to think about anything at all. I just -- all I did was kept my eyes on him and I just followed him and he saved my life by knowing to go to the roof.

CLANCY: For Norwegian tourist Anders Ericcson the second floor of his Thai hotel was not high enough.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the wave hit, it first smashed the windows of the second floor and in a moment, the concrete wall was busted and we were flushed out of the room.

I was holding my son in my arms and he had these blue swimming arms on him and the last thing he said to me is "Daddy, I'm scared. Please help." We were flushed out and I tried to change the grip of Ragnar (ph) and I lost him.

CLANCY: On the coast of Sri Lanka, many lost everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The water was rising and the sea was coming. We ran for our lives but it caught us and the water almost came up to our necks. We managed to escape the first wave, which destroyed our house. Later, my son was found alive but my husband was missing, had been drowned.

BINDRA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the scene was really scary. My friend told me then that busses were being swept away. They were being parked on the top of buildings and that you would see floating bodies everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way any person can tell you what emotion you feel when you see a wall of water one story high flood the lobby of a hotel, park three cars in the back of the lobby and you see people swimming around in that and you don't know what you can do to get them out. It is unimaginable.

CLANCY: When we continue, the water recedes leaving debris and desperation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My three houses have been swallowed by the wave. Everything was taken by the sea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I rushed home and managed to rescue my mother. I found my daughter's body in the debris of my house.

CLANCY (voice-over): This sprawling field of debris on the Indonesian coast used to be a town of 10,000 inhabitants. Now there is only one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I've been trying to find my mother, so I don't care about help but not even one helicopter came here.

CLANCY: His entire family is dead. His fellow survivors scattered. Miles up the road, dazed villagers staggered toward help. Less than 300 people survived from the town of 10,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think there are only about 30 children left. This place was crowded with children but the water was just too high.

CLANCY: In India, as in every other place in the tsunami's wake, children make up a high proportion of the dead and missing.

SUHASINI HAIDAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After the wave had gone, one of the men told us about how he and neighbors had decided to go back to the beach to look for their children. He described how they walked along the beach looking through the mud, picking out children's bodies and then he said they would wipe the faces of those children, identify them and because there was nothing else they could do at that moment, they would put those bodies back and bury them right where they were.

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We came across a group of bodies in the distance and from where I stood, I could see that they were children, no more than babies really, aged maybe between one to three and from a distance it just really didn't look real. They looked almost like mannequins or dolls. But as I got closer, I saw that their arms were locked around each other and they were hanging on to each other.

As I stood there, the bulldozer came through and it lifted up these three bodies and put it onto a funeral pyre. They had stacked the wood about a meter or so high, placed these bodies on that funeral pyre.

And I've been standing there live on air describing the scene in front of me and trying to do my job as a reporter. At that moment, the fire was lit and it was a funeral service. That's what I was witnessing. It's a funeral service. No priests, no mourners, no parents, just three little babies in this barren landscape lifted up onto a funeral pyre and set alight.

CLANCY: On a beach in Thailand, a mother desperately holds onto hope.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We went to Phuket, which was the hardest hit area in southern Thailand and we were doing reports during the day and to our left was a mother who was sitting just kind of on a blanket very simply looking out at the devastation that was behind us and that's where her daughter last was and that's the last place she knew where she was. And every day, all she could do was just come there, sit there and look out. She just hoped and prayed that her daughter would stumble back to that site.

CLANCY: But hope gradually slips away.

RAMAN: And, you know, by the third day you definitely got the sense that some sort of grief was slowly creeping in and that the inevitable reality perhaps was starting to sink in.

CLANCY: Of the children who survived, many are now alone, parents, families nowhere to be found. At an overwhelmed hospital in Indonesia, two injured women, their own families missing looked after an inconsolable boy named Uda (ph).

SHUBERT: As soon as we walked in and started talking to Uda (ph) and these two women, we were surrounded by people, people looking for family members and all of them asking us for help.

And one of them was a young woman whose family had just been wiped out and she was just going from place to place trying to find them. One of the scenes I remember most vividly is that she was sitting next to Uda (ph) as I was talking to her and she started to recount to me what happened to her family and she started to cry.

And, Uda (ph), who was sitting right next to her, who had been in his own world at that -- up until that point, wasn't speaking to anybody, suddenly looked over at her and just made this connection of sympathizing with her and he reached over and held her hand and it was -- it was a really -- it was a really touching moment.

CLANCY: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns, the tsunami's terrible toll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't think of any other catastrophe that is entirely natural and that has caused such a change to so many people across such a vast area.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to a special edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, "Voices From the Tsunami."

ZAHN: From Indonesia to Somalia, the numbers are simply staggering, more than 150,000 feared dead, more than a million left homeless and billions of dollars in destruction. But amid such stunning loss and sorrow, there are also some encouraging signs of hope and remarkable resilience.

Here, again, is Jim Clancy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLANCY (voice-over): It's a scene eerily reminiscent of September 11. In Phuket, Thailand, what was a vacation paradise has become ground zero. Family members post photographs of missing friends and relatives, hoping, praying that the giant waves didn't claim their loved ones.

RAMAN: You saw so many kids' pictures there with their parents' numbers. And you couldn't help but feel for the situation. Their parents were doing nothing more than wandering this island, kind of zombies, just unaware of what to do. You can't leave until you know what's happened to your child. And so, to see those images was incredibly stark.

And just a few feet across were the photos of the dead taken for identification purposes. So you had these very lively pictures of these beautiful kids who their parents were desperately looking for, and just a few feet across from them, the pictures of those that already we knew didn't make it.

CLANCY: A Swiss tourist desperately searches for his wife. The couple was vacationing in southern Thailand when the ferocious wave hit their resort. He has scoured crowded hospitals and morgues. Still, he cannot find her.

THOMAS ZUMBUEHL, SEARCHING FOR TSUNAMI VICTIM: She's tall and just a strong lady. And for the moment, she's pregnant, five months. So she has a big stomach. And she's really a correct -- woman. And somebody -- when she is somewhere, she make everything to contact me, that I know.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Incredibly emotional he became. He told me, "I don't know how I'm going to carry on with my life when I get back to Switzerland." He's just about to start a new job, and he just couldn't face it.

CLANCY: Some families have flown all the way from Sweden into the devastated areas to search for relatives. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's better to be here and -- sitting home and all that you see on the television. So we have to be here and see what we can do, if we can find her.

HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Short of the last Ice Age, I can't think of any other catastrophe that is entirely natural and that has caused such a change to so many people across such a vast area. I mean, it's a truly global thing. It's something that happens off the coast of Sumatra becomes Sweden's worst ever, you know, natural disaster.

CLANCY: As waters recede, the grim realization of the tsunami's horrific destruction. The death toll climbs by the hour. Off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the highest death toll. These before-and-after satellite images show the unimaginable damage, entire villages swept off the face of the Earth.

MIKE GRIFFITHS, CONSERVATIONIST: No villages left standing between Meulaboh (ph) and Chalan (ph), which is about 100 kilometers north from Meulaboh (ph). It's like a nuclear blast has hit the area.

CLANCY: Further north, the Indonesian town of Chalan (ph), where 13,000 lived, no longer exists.

GRIFFITHS: It's vaporized. There's nothing left. In fact, you wouldn't even recognize that there had a town there unless you'd flown over there before and you'd seen it from the air. Then you'd realize that, in fact, a town had once existed there. All you can see now is basically a very vague outline of some of the roads that used to carry traffic.

SHUBERT: The sheer scale of the devastation, it's on a level that I think nobody has seen before, at least in this lifetime. And it's really on a scale that's just completely unfathomable. We've covered other disasters in the past, but nothing like this.

CLANCY: Thailand's Khao Lak Beach (ph), another favorite European resort town, became a morgue. Rows of decomposed bodies littered the streets.

CHANCE: Resort after resort, tourist hotel after tourist hotel, has been not just flooded with water, but completely crushed, concrete structures crushed, cars, trucks, boats thrown a mile inland, the forest, absolutely flattened, absolute devastation. Again, it's astonishing to imagine that this was caused by a wave, not by some kind of bomb.

CLANCY: In Sri Lanka, fishing villages up and down the coast were wiped out. The dead and injured filled hospitals to capacity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was fishing and then I went for tea. I saw the tsunami coming. I lost 18 relatives, including my two children and my wife. I lost my boat, my house and my family.

BINDRA: I talked to one man. He had lost eight members of his family. Two of his loved ones' bodies weren't even found. Several orphanages along the eastern coast of Sri Lanka have been completely destroyed. In one orphanage alone, 30 orphans killed.

CLANCY: Along the southeast Indian coastline, still more loss. Rescuers find rotting bodies in jungles and on the remote Nicobar (ph) and Andaman Islands.

HAIDAR: This region has seen so many disasters, both natural, as well as manmade ones, but I think it's the sheer numbers of people affected in this one that makes this possibly the biggest story I will ever cover.

One of the islands we visited, officials told us that at least one in four people on that island had either been killed, had suffered serious injury, or had lost an immediate family member.

RIMINTON: This is mind-boggling to be thinking, god, this is enormous. And by the end of that day, you'd be thinking, this is bigger than I imagined. And the next day, it would be keep on getting bigger and bigger, the scale of it, the degree of the loss, in some places, the sense of annihilation that came out of this wave.

CLANCY: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns, in the face of devastation, the stories of survival.

RAVINDRA: There was like a sea of dead bodies, children and women mainly. The majority of them were children. So, I had to clear a path through the water by pushing these people away and heading as far inland as possible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nearly 6,000 people have been killed.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: More than 22,000 dead and the body count is climbing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One hundred and fifty-six thousand people reported dead.

CLANCY (voice-over): It's being called the worst natural disaster in history, so much death and despair. But there were also glimmers of hope, stories of courage and survival.

RAVINDRA: And the train moved off the tracks. I could see it actually being disattached from the other carriages. And then as the water started to rush in, the train's carriage started to tilt like this, at which point I fell against one of the doorways and water started to fill up -- up into my neck.

CLANCY: In Sri Lanka, Shenth Ravindra was trapped on a train caught in the tsunami's path. A second wave would strike 30 minutes later. RAVINDRA: Suddenly this wave took up almost -- it must have been about 85 percent of the horizon and was coming towards us. And it sort of pushed the train inland to the point where it got wedged against a house.

I was able to jump from the top of the train to the top of this house. I had to take my chance with the water, maybe swim a little bit and try and get as far -- as close to dry land as possible. There was like a sea of dead bodies, children and women mainly. So, I had to clear a path through the water by pushing these people away and heading as far inland as possible. So, it was just a case of survival.

CLANCY: Of the more than 1,000 passengers on board, Ravindra is only about one of 100 to survive.

JILLIAN SEARLE, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: I had both of them in my hands, and one in each arm and then we started going under.

CLANCY: In Thailand, Australian Jillian Searle was forced to make the ultimate decision, let go of one of her two sons to save the other.

SEARLE: I knew I had to let go of one of them. And I just thought I had better let go of the one that is the oldest. And a lady grabbed hold of him for a moment, but she had to let him go because she was going under. And, I was screaming trying to find him. And we thought he was dead.

CLANCY: Two hours later, Jillian's son, a 5-year-old named Lachie, was found alive.

SEARLE: It was just horrible. I'm just so thankful that I have still got my two kids with me.

CLANCY: Nearly seven days after the tsunami, a healthy, smiling 18-month-old from Kazakhstan was returned to the Kazakh ambassador after a woman discovered the boy floating on a mattress off Thailand's Khao Lak (ph) tourist. The boy's parents are still missing, but an older brother is reportedly alive.

Twenty-three-year-old Melwati (ph) spent five days alone and adrift in the Indian Ocean. She was found clinging to a palm tree, weak, injured, but amazingly still conscious.

CHARLOTTE WINGAARD, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: It feels bad to be home because you're still so there in your mind, in your feelings.

CLANCY: Charlotte Wingaard and Ulrika Olsson, these two Swedish au pairs, were vacationing in Thailand.

WINGAARD: And I saw water down at my feet. And then I looked up slowly. And I saw water from me, myself to horizon.

ULRIKA OLSSON, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: You did not see anything else.

(CROSSTALK) WINGAARD: Just water, just water coming towards us.

CLANCY: The girls and the family that they worked for were separated by the cataclysmic waves.

WINGAARD: I took one of the little children to me and then the roof fell down on my head, and I dropped her. And luckily she got caught under the water. She was stuck, so she didn't disappear with the...

OLSSON: Waves.

CLANCY: Grabbing the child, Charlotte clung to the 3-year-old for more than three hours. They were later rescued by Thai fishermen. The little girl's 1-year-old brother is still missing.

OLSSON: I don't think you can imagine the feeling.

CLANCY: An Indonesian man adrift for eight days, a 27-year-old buried alive for five, a fisherman pinned under his boat for an entire week, and, of course, the American couple, Ron Reubin (ph) and Rebecca Battle (ph), who narrowly escaped watery graves by traveling to the roof of their hotel. But their story does not end there. A tiny Scandinavian boy was about to enter their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From the roof point, where we had been during the tsunami, we saw up here and we thought this is the highest we could go, so this is where we ended up. Everyone was missing somebody. So this was kind of the place people were trickling in to see if they could find each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And is this the exact place where you found Hannes (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't know his name was Hannes (ph), did you?

BEDDALL: No, of course not, no. He was laying right over -- about in that spot right there.

CLANCY: The couple picked up little Hannes Bergstrom. In shock and half-drowned, the boy had literally been snatched from his grandfather's arms by the roaring currents. A few days later, he was reunited with his Swedish family, but not all of his loved ones survived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very emotional to see that the father was alive and the grandmother was alive. And it's a tragedy that the mother died, but we were just -- we were so happy for him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And that he was playing normally, just like a normal kid. He had a toy and he kept squeezing it and he was talking. And I mean he was not like that the day we had him. He was not talking. He was not playing, not -- he was very out of it. So we were really happy to see he looked perfectly normal again.

CLANCY: Amid the joy of survival, there is still unmistakable pain.

AMANDA SIMONS, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: There was a girl who I can't find, her name is Matilda, and she was from Argentina, and we were in the sea together, and when it went under, she said, take my hand. And I said, no I can't, because I know you can't hold on to someone, you've got to be strong and be on your own. And I didn't take her hand. When the next wave came, she didn't come back up.

Someone up there didn't want me to go today. And I made it. But it's not fair all of the people that didn't make it.

CLANCY: Still ahead, an outpouring of aid and the challenge of rebuilding communities and rebuilding lives.

LT. GREG KNUTSON, U.S. NAVY: People are coming up to the aircraft and hugging them, holding their hand, saying thank you, bowing. It's an amazing feeling.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLANCY (voice-over): Across the region devastated by the tsunami, relief descends from the sky. Aid workers and military personnel from around the world arrived in places others have tried to flee.

KNUTSON: We've been bringing about 2,000 pounds of food down to the different camp sites with milk, water, rice, noodles, biscuits, eggs, chicken soup, pretty much all the above. People are coming up to the aircraft and hugging them, holding their hands, saying, thank you, bowing. It's an amazing feeling.

LT. CMDR. MARK LEAVITT, U.S. NAVY: And they're very excited to see us, oftentimes running up underneath the helicopter, running around the tail rotor. So you're a little afraid at first, and then you see a body or you see someone that's severely hurt, and you're brought back to the reality of what had -- of what had happened there.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I've been in war and I've been through a number of hurricanes, tornadoes and other relief operations, but I have never seen anything like this.

CLANCY: The pace is unrelenting, but the work is rewarding.

ANNA LILLETHUN, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: There's been a lot of loss, but I take a lot -- I mean I'm encouraged by the way people have come together, you know, to sort of help each other and work together to pick up the pieces. And to me, that's very encouraging.

MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When it came to loading food and water onto the chopper we were taking, I found myself joining in. I put my notebook down and started to toss boxes out the door. In spite of the chaos, there were smiles in the crowd. We had given them food, water and a little hope.

CLANCY: German national Christian Von Straumbauch (ph) and his Indonesian wife, Susie (ph), had been using their two small planes to ferry supplies to one of her native country's hardest-hit areas. They were told it was impossible because the airstrip they needed to land on has been washed away. They saw the need. They ignored the warning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have carried quite a bit of loads to there. We also hope that what we do gives many people hope. That's one very important thing that the people see that somebody cares for them and somebody is able to come to them.

CLANCY: It's not just foreigners coming to the rescue. Survivors are also banding together, working through their grief, helping one another as best they can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were so generous. They were missing villages. They were missing their families and they would -- they brought up food and supplies.

JAMES FIRMAGE, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: One man went down to the village or whatever was left of it -- I don't know how he did it -- and he brought up rice, some of the best-tasting rice we've ever had.

CLANCY: But soon, food will not be enough. A return to some kind of normalcy will require much more.

DON VITARANA, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR (through translator): I think it will take all of Sri Lankans at least 20 years to recover.

HAKAN BJORKMAN, U.N. DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM: So far, there's been a lot of emphasis on the immediate needs, food handouts and a bit of cash. But now we need to very quickly start focusing on getting people back on their feet again, and there, of course, you know, help them replace their boats, their fishing gear and maybe give them credits with good conditions, so that they can start a business. And that's very urgent as well.

CLANCY: But the fishermen of the region face a fearful dilemma. In order to live, they must depend on the same waters that destroyed their livelihoods and the lives of their loved ones.

SUMPAL KAMAR, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR (through translator): The sea is like our mother, the land, our father. We love the sea and respect it like God, but now we are weary. We are petrified. We wonder now, can we continue our livelihood on the high seas.

CLANCY: But their future depends on it.

KALAPUT RANGIT, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR (through translator): I'm willing to borrow money at 15 percent or 20 percent interest to rebuild my boat, but I have to go back.

RAM RAMGOPAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Covering the story from India, where, you know, there's -- India is no stranger to adversity, at every turn, you do see poverty. You do see people in distress. Natural disasters are not uncommon, and they usually end up in large-scale suffering and loss of life. The good thing is that people seem to have some sort of resilience to be able to overcome their trials and tribulations.

RIMINTON: There's no self-pity that I've seen. There's grief. There's suffering. There's loss. There's confusion. There's bewilderment. There's everything else like that. But I haven't seen anybody being self-pitying or saying it's all about them; it's all about their suffering.

They don't. They realize this is bigger than any of us, than any of them. And, in a way, there's something out of it all, you know, gently inspiring about that.

CLANCY: Perhaps unexpectedly, inspiration also comes from the most vulnerable victims, the very young and the very old.

HAIDAR: I think what really just was amazing for me was how resilient some of the kids I met were. A lot of these children were evacuees who were displaced. And you would see them in the relief camps and they'd be running around and playing, making new friends, somehow getting through the day in what must be very unusual circumstances for them.

I think one of the most emotional moments for me was the memory of a happy child, not a sad one. This little 12-year-old girl, who we'd seen around the camp before, came running up, bounced up to me, put her hand out and very cheerfully said, "Happy new year."

I guess it just seemed so ridiculous at the moment, that this little girl, whose father was missing, who was wearing donated clothes, sleeping on a bare floor with the sky above her, that this little girl could somehow comfort me, when I had a home and family to go to.

RIMINTON: We met yesterday a woman who was a grandmother, and she had taken in three of her grandchildren, one of whom was a boy who was so traumatized by what had happened when the wave came through their house and destroyed his life that he hadn't spoken since the wave came through.

And I said to her, you know, you didn't expect to be at your age -- with no prospects, no money, no house anymore, you didn't expect to be raising three kids. And she said, "No, I'll raise them. It's OK." I walked away from that woman. She had a cataract in her eye. She had this kind of a clouded-up eye. And she was so tiny. And she just was not what you'd think of if you wanted to think of as a strong person. And she was as strong as hell. And she was doing the right thing and she was looking to the future.

CLANCY: All the survivors now look toward the future. For those who have lost so much, the future may be all they have.

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