Tilly Smith

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Tilly Smith (born 1994) is a British woman who has been credited with saving the lives of approximately 100 beachgoers at Mai Khao Beach in Thailand by warning them minutes before the arrival of the tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. [1] [2] Smith, who was ten years old at the time, had learned about tsunamis in her geography class.



Smith was educated at Danes Hill School, an independent school in the village of Oxshott in Surrey, [3] followed by Stowe School, a boarding independent school in the civil parish of Stowe in Buckinghamshire.

Smith learned about tsunamis in a geography lesson [4] [5] two weeks before the tsunami from her teacher Andrew Kearney at Danes Hill School [6] in Oxshott, Surrey. [7] [8] She recognised the signs and alerted her parents while walking on the beach. "The water was really, really frothy," Smith said. "It wasn't calm and it wasn't going in and then out. It was just coming in and in and in." [9]

Initially, not seeing any obvious sign of a large wave on the horizon, her parents didn't believe her assertion that a tsunami was coming, but Smith persisted, stating curtly: "I'm going. I'm definitely going. There is definitely going to be a tsunami". [10] Her father, Colin, sensing the urgency in his daughter's voice, heeded Tilly's warning. He managed to convince a security guard that a tsunami was inbound: "'Look, you probably think I'm absolutely bonkers, but my daughter's completely convinced there's gonna be a tsunami." [9] [11]

Tilly Smith recounted that, by coincidence, an English-speaking Japanese man was nearby and heard her mention the Japanese word "tsunami", bolstering her claim by saying: "Yeah, there's been an earthquake in Sumatra; I think your daughter's right." [12] The beach was evacuated to the second storey of a nearby hotel before the 9-metre (30 ft) tsunami reached the shore, [13] with patrons narrowly avoiding the tsunami by seconds; Tilly's mother, one of the last to seek refuge, said: "I ran, and then I thought I was going to die." [14]

Ultimately, Mai Khao Beach was one of the few beaches on the island with no reported fatalities, with only a few minor injuries recorded. [9] [15] [16] [17] Colin added, "It was later when we sort of went through what happened we thought how lucky we were, 'cause if she hadn't told us, we would have just kept on walking," he said. "I'm convinced we would have died, absolutely convinced." [9]

Smith's family declined requests to be interviewed by commercial and national broadcasters in the immediate aftermath, but Smith appeared at the United Nations in November 2005, where she met former President of The United States and the serving U.N. Special Envoy for Tsunami Relief, Bill Clinton, [1] [18] [19] and at the first anniversary in Phuket as part of a campaign to highlight the importance of education; she also appeared in an educational video for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. [20] Tilly and her parents later appeared in a segment of the American TV show 20/20. [21]

Awards and recognition

On 9 September 2005, Smith received the Thomas Gray Special Award of The Marine Society & Sea Cadets from Second Sea Lord, Vice-Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent. [6] [8]

Minor planet 20002 Tillysmith has been named after her. [22] In the press, Smith earned the moniker Angel of the Beach. [9] [23]

In December 2005, Smith was named "Child of the Year" by the French magazine Mon Quotidien (a magazine targeted to young readers). [1] [24] At the official tsunami commemorations on the first anniversary of the tsunami held at Khao Lak, Thailand, on 26 December 2005, she was given the honour of reading a poem to thousands of spectators. [25]

"It wasn't devastation or death that won the day. It was humanity that triumphed, the shining victory of generosity, courage, love."

from a poem by Naowarat Pongpaiboon [26]

Smith's story is incorporated into many teaching resources for children about earthquakes, tsunamis and how to stay safe. [1] [24] [25] [27]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tsunami</span> Series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water

A tsunami is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. Unlike normal ocean waves, which are generated by wind, or tides, which are in turn generated by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun, a tsunami is generated by the displacement of water from a large event.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami</span> Earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Indian Ocean

On 26 December 2004, at 07:58:53 local time (UTC+7), a major earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1–9.3 Mw struck with an epicentre off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The undersea megathrust earthquake, known by the scientific community as the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake, was caused by a rupture along the fault between the Burma Plate and the Indian Plate, and reached a Mercalli intensity up to IX in some areas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Khao Lak</span> Human settlement in Phang Nga Province, Thailand

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Humanitarian response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake</span>

The humanitarian response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake of a magnitude of 9.1 was prompted by one of the worst natural disasters of modern times. On 26 December 2004, the earthquake, which struck off the northwest coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, generated a tsunami that wreaked havoc along much of the rim of the Indian Ocean. Particularly hard-hit were the countries of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand. About 230,000 people were killed, tens of thousands more were injured, and 1.7 million became homeless and displaced.

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Malaysia was affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on 26 December 2004. Despite its proximity to the epicentre of the earthquake, Malaysia escaped the kind of damage that struck countries hundreds of miles further away. Since the epicentre was on the western coast of Sumatra, the island largely protected the country from the worst of the tsunami. The country's worst affected areas were the northern coastal areas and outlying islands like Penang and Langkawi. The simple red flag warning system used by lifeguards on beaches in some resort areas in Penang was credited to reducing the number of fatalities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Effect of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake on Thailand</span>

Thailand was one of the 14 countries affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on 26 December 2004. It left behind unprecedented damage and destruction in six provinces of Thailand, impacting 407 villages, completely destroying 47 of them, including prominent tourist resorts like Khao Lak. The disaster killed 8,000 people in Thailand.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Oxshott</span> Human settlement in England

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John Chroston of Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire, a biology teacher at Falkirk High School, Scotland, was one of the few tourists present during the Indian Ocean earthquake able to recognize tsunami warning signs and prompt a beach evacuation. Another foreigner who issued an alert was 10-year-old British schoolgirl Tilly Smith at Maikhao Beach. At the island of Simeulue, near the epicenter, and in some villages in Indonesia, villagers who remembered past tsunamis alerted their communities.

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The 2007 Solomon Islands earthquake took place on 2 April 2007, near the provincial capital of Gizo on Ghizo Island, in the Solomon Islands. Its magnitude was estimated at 8.1 on the Mw scale, and 7.8 on the Ms scale. The tsunami that followed the earthquake killed 52 people. According to the USGS, the earthquake was recorded around 7:39:56 a.m. local time (UTC+11). The focus was 10 km (6 mi) deep and 40 km (25 mi) south southeast of Gizo township on New Georgia Islands in Western Province. There were numerous aftershocks, the largest of which had a magnitude of 6.2.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology</span> Government agency in the Philippines

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The 2009 Samoa earthquake and tsunami took place on 29 September 2009 in the southern Pacific Ocean adjacent to the Kermadec-Tonga subduction zone. The submarine earthquake occurred in an extensional environment and had a moment magnitude of 8.1 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of VI (Strong). It was the largest earthquake of 2009. The earthquake initiated with a normal-faulting event with a magnitude of 8.1. Within two minutes of the earthquake rupture, two large magnitude 7.8 earthquakes occurred on the subduction zone interface. The two magnitude 7.8 earthquakes had a combined magnitude equivalent to 8.0. The event can be considered a doublet earthquake.

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On 11 March 2011, at 14:46 JST, a Mw 9.0–9.1 undersea megathrust earthquake occurred in the Pacific Ocean, 72 km (45 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of the Tōhoku region. It lasted approximately six minutes, causing a tsunami. It is sometimes known in Japan as the "Great East Japan Earthquake", among other names. The disaster is often referred to as simply 3.11.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Miki Endo</span>

Miki Endo was an employee of the town of Minamisanriku's Crisis Management Department, tasked with broadcasting disaster advisories and warnings.


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Smith family