Tales of survival, surprising alliances

bangkok (ap) | From Thailand to India, the tsunamis that devastated parts of Southeast Asia resulted in tales of extraordinary cooperation and survival.

In one incident, an Israeli and a Palestinian couple were brought together in the most trying of circumstances — on the roof of a truck, with flood waters swirling around them.

Yossi and Inbar Gross said they were spending their honeymoon in the Thai resort of Phuket when the area was overwhelmed by a wall of water.

“We and this Palestinian couple jumped on the roof of this Ford van,” Yossi Gross told Army Radio. “Below us was a raging river, a sea that washed up into the city and dragged everything along with it. Everything was wrecked, everything was ruined.”

Gross said they stayed with the Palestinian couple on the van’s roof for more than four hours before they were able to climb down. He did not give their names.

After they made their way to a makeshift shelter, the Palestinians gave the Grosses money and assistance that enabled them to get to Bangkok and board a flight for Israel, Gross said. “I have to tell you, if there’s someone I have to thank, quite simply they’re the people who got us out of there,” he said. “All of our money, our passports, they were left in the hotel. … Without them we couldn’t have gotten out.”

Inbar Gross said their debt to the Palestinians is incalculable.

“Maybe we owe them our lives,” she said.

Her husband said he and the Palestinians exchanged phone numbers and intend to keep in close touch.

“Friends?” he said. “Of course we are. Absolutely.”

In another case, a premonition about floods led another Israeli couple living in an international community in southern India to build their house on stilts, a move that saved them from the fury of the tsunami that tore through the region this week.

Yuval Skoles and his wife, Hannah, moved from Israel 20 years ago to live in Auroville, a spiritual retreat community, near the former French colony of Pondicherry on India’s eastern coast.

When he began building his beachside compound, his wife had dreams about floods, so he built the main house on stilts, about six feet off the ground. In a part of India where ocean surges and tsunamis were unheard of before Dec. 26, it was, frankly, a bit odd.

“It’s the only house of its kind on the coast,” Yuval Skoles said.

When the tsunami struck that sunny Sunday morning, the couple was in the main house. Their daughter, her husband and son were staying in a guesthouse at ground level. The tsunami swamped the guesthouse.

His wife urged him to jump into the raging torrents to rescue their daughter and grandson; she even threatened to jump in herself. But they were nowhere to be seen.

“For 45 minutes I thought I had lost my daughter,” Yuval Skoles said.

But his daughter and her family had sought refuge inside a hilltop Hindu temple. They later walked back to the main A-frame house on whitewashed concrete stilts.

They lost most of their possessions, and they have a lot of rebuilding to do. But Yuval Skoles said he was happy. After fearing his family had died and then learning they had lived, he said nothing can get him down.

“Everything is great,” he said.