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Picture that proves Amy is alive and well terror nearing 25, 000; Earthquake survivor talks to Daily Post.

Byline: DEBORAH JAMES

THIS is the picture that brought tears of relief and joy to a family last night.

It shows Amy Harding sitting safe and well outside a makeshift rescue centre in Thailand after she escaped the tidal wave that has killed as many as 25, 000 people in Asia. Last night, the 24-year-old, from Neston, south Wirral, told the Daily Post how she was rescued by boat from the island of Phi Phi and taken to nearby Phuket, after spending the night stranded on a mountaintop.

She said: ``I'm so relieved I'm safe.

``I was so frightened and scared. It's a miracle everyone I was with is OK. ''

However, she added: ``It's terrible to think what has happened. The scale of it is just sinking in. ''

Miss Harding, a university graduate and diving instructor, was one of hundreds of British tourists caught up in the disaster caused by an enormous earthquake in the Indian Ocean near Sri Lanka.

She survived the impact because she was teaching a scuba diving class deep beneath the

water when the huge tsunami struck on Sunday.

Having swum to land, she scrambled up a mountain on Ko Phi Phi, from where she exchanged a series of frantic text messages with her family, who were spending Boxing Day at home in Hilltop Lane, Neston.

She said she was stranded overnight on the mountain and feared that her Israeli boyfriend, Evya, may be dead.

In the fourth of five text messages, sent as darkness fell on the mountain on Sunday night, she said she was preparing to climb down to seek help at dawn.

She wrote: ``BATTERY LOW. AM COLD. PRAY FOR EVYA. CAN SEE BOATS BUT TOO HIGH TO CLIMB DOWN. WE MADE IT TO THE TOP. WE MOVE WHEN DAYLIGHT. FULL MOON SO EERILY LIGHT. TXT ME PLEASE. XXX'' Later, she wrote: ``I HOPE WE GET RESCUED 2MOZ. MY POOR EVYA XX KEEP THINKING THE WORST. AMY'' Last night, Miss Harding was flown to the Thai capital of Bangkok where she hopes to meet up with friends while the damage is repaired in the southern islands.

She described her joy as she learned Evya was safe. By coincidence, he was helping disaster victims to safety and was on the rescue boat that Miss Harding boarded.

She told of her ordeal on the mountain and said: ``I was with a fairly large group so we tried to keep each others' spirits up.

``But it was very cold and I was fearing the worst about my boyfriend, so it was a very long, uncomfortable night.

``We didn't know what was going to happen when we got back down the mountain, but we knew we had to go.

``We started back down at dawn, and I couldn't believe it when we got to the rescue boat, Evya was there. He's safe and so am I.

``Everyone in our group is OK, one of my friends, Kira, has got a broken wrist but apart from that we are all fine.

``Evya and I even managed to get all our stuff back from our flat before we left because it was so high up it didn't get swept away.

``I am very, very lucky indeed. ''

Miss Harding telephoned her brother, 27-year-old trainee accountant Mike Harding and parents Frank, 78, and Lis, 62 at 10. 30 am UK time yesterday to tell them she had been rescued and was safe on the nearby island of Phuket.

Mr Harding jnr told the Daily Post yesterday: ``I spoke to Amy this morning and she sounded surprisingly calm.

``I don't think it's really hit her what's happened yet.

Mike said his sister had told him she was planning to stay in Thailand and was hoping to find work on the island of Ko Tao.

He added: ``My mum thinks she's crazy but she loves diving and wants to carry on working there.

``We were just so relieved to hear from her.

``I'd tried to ring her at about 8 am but her mobile phone battery was dead.

``We were very concerned and worried, but we tried to keep calm because we knew she had survived the tidal wave and we knew her mobile phone had probably just run out of battery.

``My mum would love to just have her home but she knows she is OK so she is happy.

``We are very proud of her. ''

He added: ``All our thoughts go out to the families of those who have died and those who are still trapped. ''

Mrs Harding, 62, said: ``We are so just relieved they are both safe.

``The last message we got from Amy said she was stranded on the side of a mountain and her boyfriend was missing.

``We lost contact because her phone cut out and we really feared the worst. ''

She added: ``We have been up all night without any sleep.

``I'm not a religious person but I spent a lot of the time praying for good news.

``I'm tired but ecstatic, but my thoughts are with all the other families caught up in this terrible disaster. ''

deborahjames @dailypost. co. uk

CAPTION(S):

Amy Harding from Neston, far left, chats with fellow earthquake survivors in Thailand after spending the night stranded on a mountain; Picture: GURINDER OSAN; Amy Harding
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 28, 2004
Words:883
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