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Boxing Day tsunami survivor in training for London Marathon to raise money for British Red Cross

Thursday 22 December
For further information
Rosie Stewart 020 7877 7938 or

A York mother is training for the Virgin London Marathon on Sunday 22 April to raise money for the British Red Cross, nearly seven years after the charity helped repatriate her in the aftermath of the devastating Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.

Louise Harrand, 38, was on honeymoon with her husband Greg on the idyllic island of Ko Phi Phi on Thailand’s West Coast when the tsunami struck, killing 230,000 people across the region.

Louise says: “There was just chaos; people were running around outside screaming ‘Water! Water! Get high up!’ We tried to climb up a staircase to the side of the hotel but there was a bottle neck and we soon realised there was nothing we could do.”

Then the first wave hit. Louise was immediately separated from Greg and found herself caught deep under the water surrounded by bodies, tables, fridges and other debris.

“I remember thinking ‘I’m going to die, there’s no way I can get out of this’. I didn’t try and fight against the wave, it was too strong. But then, at the last possible moment I came up. A couple of guys managed to haul me on to a rooftop and eventually took me to a nearby hotel where people were gathering.”

Louise survived with a fractured cheekbone, broken ribs and cuts across her face. She was reunited with her husband Greg after a kind German tourist went in to the streets and called his name until finally he found him, wearing only a sarong – the force of the water had stripped him naked - and his feet badly lacerated. 

The couple were taken to Phuket International Hospital and then finally to a private hospital in Bangkok where they were visited by the British Red Cross.

“I had completely shut down by this point but the British Red Cross were so helpful and reassuring. They gave us some basic provisions, a letter confirming we were British nationals – we lost everything in the tsunami including our passports – and they helped us get home, securing an ambulance to take us to the airport where, with their help, Greg managed to get us on the next flight to the UK.”

Louise, who lives just outside York with her husband Greg and their three young children Harrison, Raya and Bo, is now training hard for the Virgin London Marathon and raising vital funds for the British Red Cross.

She says: “Unless you have survived something like that and been amid the horror and debris that it leaves, you cannot imagine the sheer scale of what organisations like the Red Cross are faced with. Knowing that the support of the Red Cross was there helped us enormously and I am doing the marathon to say thank you and raise as much money as possible to help people in similar situations.”

To sponsor Louise as she runs for the British Red Cross visit:

If you have secured an independent place in the London Marathon ballot then why not join the British Red Cross team? For more information or to take part in another fundraising event for the British Red Cross call our Events Team on 0844 412 2877 or go to


Notes to editors
For more information please contact Rosie Stewart, fundraising communications officer at the British Red Cross, on 020 7877 7938 or email For Christmas out of hours, contact the duty press officer on 07659 145095

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.

We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies
in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on
with their lives.