- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The parents of a three-week-old baby who survived the Sunday tsunami by floating on a mattress said her escape was “a real miracle,” but the family won’t leave the seaside district that has been its home for decades.

S. Tulasi had been sleeping in a room in her parents’ restaurant in the northern resort island of Penang, Malaysia, when massive waves hit the area, sweeping her parents out of the building.

When her parents struggled back into the severely damaged restaurant, they found her on a mattress floating in 5-foot-deep waters.

“We know this was a real miracle, thanks to God,” her mother, Annal Mary, 44, said yesterday. “So many other children who died, but our baby was OK. She could have been swept out to the sea.”

The mother said she has lived by the sea her entire life, and that the Sunday tidal waves would not frighten her family into moving.

“We will stay here,” she said. “We will repair our place and continue our lives.”

Children and teenagers, most of whom were on family picnics by the beach, make up about one-third of at least 65 Malaysians confirmed killed by the tsunami.

In Phuket, Thailand, aSwedish toddler was reunited with his weeping father in a hospital yesterday, days after the 2-year-old was found sitting alone on a roadside in the aftermath of the disaster.

The boy’s mother is among about 5,000 people missing in Thailand.

Hannes Bergstroem, his face scratched and pocked with mosquito bites and his hand bandaged, looked bemused as his father choked up with emotion. The father, also scratched and bruised, lay in a hospital bed, holding Hannes with balloons around them.

Hannes was found alone on a roadside near a Thai beach resort Sunday night and was taken by helicopter to a hospital for treatment. The hospital staff had posted his photo on the Internet on Monday in an effort to locate his family.

His uncle, who spotted the photo, claimed the boy Tuesday and set up the reunion with the father, Marko Karkkainen, at a hospital on the southern Thai island. The father and son were receiving treatment.

There were reports that an anonymous Thai princess had arranged the helicopter that brought Hannes from the road to the hospital. Mr. Karkkainen said he had been told of the reports.

“I have been to Thailand seven times, and this time only confirmed what I know about Thai people — that they are so generous and caring,” he said.

“She has saved his life, but also my soul because I couldn’t survive if I lost them both,” he said, in a reference to his son and the boy’s mother.

The mother, Suzanne Bergstroem, has been missing since the earthquake-spawned tidal waves hit Sunday, plowing into the Thai resorts where thousands of Western tourists were vacationing.

Nearly 2,000 people are confirmed dead in Thailand among about 77,000 killed across a dozen countries.

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