Gladstone mother buries 10 of her family
By SAM BENGERsamb@gladstoneobserver.com.au
GLADSTONE mother Sunee O'Brien buried 10 members of her family yesterday after they were killed in the tsunamis which have devastated Asia.
Her husband, Trevor, said when his wife flew to Thailand she was hoping to find some family members still alive, but at this stage only one aunt had survived the freak waves that have so far killed almost 100,000 people.
"We saw it on the television and the first thing that went through my mind was that they had nowhere to go ? the small fishing village on the peninsula where they lived, was in a low area, surrounded by ocean on either side and had no high ground for them to run to,'' he said.
He said Sunee's family lived in the Phang Nga region in Thailand, where Suni estimated there could be as many as 10,000 people killed.
"When I spoke to Sunee, she said there were bodies everywhere and they continued to be washed in from the sea ? she said the death toll in that region could be as high as 10,000,'' he said.
Mr O'Brien said Sunee had been lucky enough to have one aunt who survived the tsunami.
"She was washed three kilometres inland by the waves and is the only one in Sunee's family to have been found alive at this stage ? there are still four members of her family unaccounted for,'' he said.
Mr O'Brien said once he had seen the tsunami reported on the news, he and his wife immediately started trying to contact her family in Thailand.
"We just got up and phoned and phoned and phoned and eventually we spoke to Sunee 's sister-in-law who knew there would be no one left ? she said her husband had gone out there and there was nothing left of the village, nobody left,'' he said.
He said Suni decided immediately to fly to the region and assist her family in looking for those missing.
Mr O'Brien said after Sunee's aunty had been found alive, the family then found the body of her 11-year-old nephew, buried in a mountain of sand dumped by the waves.
After that, other members of the family, including Sunee's mother, Prom Khonsong, and one of her sister's, were found and the family were able to bury them in a separate area to the mass graves being filled.
"They have to bury the bodies quickly to prevent disease, and they said if Sunee had arrived an hour later they might have been too late and had to bury them in a mass grave,'' Mr O'Brien said.
Mr O'Brien said his wife would remain in Thailand until she had mourned the loss of her relatives.
The Observer will launch a special appeal tomorrow to help assist in the restoration of the area.