11-year-old who warned tourists of danger is honoured

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The Independent Online

While the thoughts of most Britons gathering in Thailand today to mark the anniversary of the tsunami will be on those they have lost, one 11-year-old girl will have a chance to reflect on those she is credited with saving.

Tilly Smith, from Oxshott, Surrey, was on a beach in Phuket with her family on Boxing Day last year when she noticed the sea change in temperament and was reminded of a geography lesson she had attended shortly before the Christmas break.

Convinced she was witnessing the warning signs of a tsunami, Tilly raised the alarm with her parents and hotel staff, and the beach was vacated minutes before the waves struck. She said she had seen "bubbling on the water ... and foam sizzling just like in a frying pan."

Her efforts are thought to have resulted in ensuring the safety of the 100-plus people on the beach, and have now been credited by the French children's magazine, Mon Quotidien, whose readers have voted her Child of the Year. Tilly said: "I'm very glad I was able to say on the beach that a tsunami was coming. And I'm glad they listened to me."

She will be among 137 Britons attending memorial services in Thailand today, remembering the 5,400 who died, including 129 British people.

In one service on Christmas Eve, around 50 relatives of UK victims gathered on the rooftop of the Graceland Hotel in Patong Beach on Phuket. Three verses from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Christmas Poem: "Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky ... Ring out the old, ring in the new ... Ring out the grief that saps the mind ... Ring in redress to all mankind", were read by Lord Triesman, the Foreign Office minister. "They've chosen to come back and stand in the place that they lost those they loved. That's not easy," he said afterwards.

Howard Digby-Johns, a lay minister who led the service, placed a wreath at the Mai Khao cemetery memorial wall earlier in the day. This white plywood construction at the entrance to the former base of corpse-identification units remains a moving testament to the dead.

But ceremonials are not what some British relatives came to Phuket for. Tal Berman Howarth, who lost her brother, Avadya Berman, and his girlfriend, Nikki Liebowitz, was on her way to islands south-east of Phuket. "I won't have so much to do with the ceremonies. I'm sure they'll be nice but they won't be me and mine. I'll trust my instincts, I'll do my own," she said.