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A Phuket success story: British siblings’ locate saviors nearly a decade after the tsunami



PHUKET: A Facebook hunt led by British siblings for a man and woman who helped them during the devastating 2004 tsunami is over; their guardians have been found.

Upin Sengmuang, a small shop owner on Tri Trang Beach, learned today that she and her partner Pitchat were being sought by Emily and Ben Willgrass, who had posted a message on Facebook saying they wanted to find them and thank them.

“I was so happy to hear that they are looking for me,” said Ms Upin. “I never forgot them.”

The Willgrass’ were in Phuket with their parents when the tsunami hit on December 26, 2004, Ben wrote on a post on his Facebook page.

“On our journey to high ground, a Thai couple took us in and looked after us whilst our Dad went in search for our Mother who was missing,” Ben wrote. “Tragically, her body was found later that day.”

“During the worst moment of our lives, Upin and Pitchat were there for us and our family and we are trying to find them now.”

Ms Upin and Mr Pitchat took the family in overnight, and as Phuket International Airport was closed the following day, drove them 870 kilometers to Bangkok so they could fly back to England, Ben said.

“Words cannot explain how thankful we are for the help and support they gave us, and the kindness they showed at a time when it was needed most will never be forgotten.”

The siblings’ call for help yielded results in less than 24 hours. An Andaman News reporter saw the story, posted it on Facebook in Thai and soon received Ms Upin’s phone number.

She had gone to Phang Nga for the day, but quickly returned to Phuket when she learned of the story.

“When the tsunami came, I was at Tri Trang Beach, where I still work today. That night, we had no electricity, and in the evening, a man came to us and asked us to help take care of his children. We were happy to help,” Ms Upin said.

The siblings are due to arrive in Phuket on July 20.

— Woranut Pechdee


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