Why was I spared?

Asks the woman who has lost everything after husband and three children are swept to their deaths
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The Independent Online

The Hoys were a loving and close-knit family. John Hoy, born in London, was a diplomat. Working as an economist for the Department for International Development, the government body now co-ordinating the British response to the Indian Ocean tragedy, he met and married Nim while stationed in Bangkok 15 years ago. They had three children. First was 12-year-old Robert, followed three years later by David and two years after that by Kate.

The Hoys were a loving and close-knit family. John Hoy, born in London, was a diplomat. Working as an economist for the Department for International Development, the government body now co-ordinating the British response to the Indian Ocean tragedy, he met and married Nim while stationed in Bangkok 15 years ago. They had three children. First was 12-year-old Robert, followed three years later by David and two years after that by Kate.

They were holidaying together at the resort of Khao Lak with relatives from Britain when the tsunami struck. The family had been playing on the beach, but sought refuge in a holiday cottage as they heard the water roaring towards them. But the fragile structure was crushed. All three children and Mr Hoy, 46, are thought to be dead.

Only Mrs Hoy was spared, being swept a kilometre inland by the wall of water. Details of the Hoys' tragedy come 11 days after a natural disaster in which 150,000 were killed and millions left homeless. The spectre of suffering and disease hangs over millions more.

Billions of pounds have been raised as a continent stands in united, silent grief; the world is engaged in the biggest-ever relief operation. But, despite the continuing backdrop of harrowing television images and personal tales of horror and grief, still the tsunami has the power to shock.

Mrs Hoy, 40, suffered only cuts and bruises, but her mental anguish is overwhelming. "I don't know why I survived; I should have gone with them," she said yesterday. After the tsunami she was forced to spend the night alone on the high ground until the waters receded. Then the desperate search began.

"I was just hoping that someone would find my family and that they were safe," she said. It was not to be.

After two days of increasingly frantic searching she came across the bodies of Kate and David, stored in a temple that had been converted into a temporary mortuary. Of John and Robert, more than nine days later, there is still no certain news.

"Why was my life spared?" Mrs Hoy cried. "We were all very close. John loved his family very much. The children were beautiful. I married him because I had a sense that he was a great man and I was right. I just hope that we can manage to find John and Robert, so we can be together again in peace." To underline the sudden, brutal shock of their deaths, some of the children's last moments together were captured in a family photograph taken the previous night as they posed happily in front of a Christmas tree on the beach.

Some 1,800 bodies were washed up on the beach at Khao Lak, one of the worst-affected areas in Thailand. Hundreds were Western tourists, although the grim task of identifying the bodies is still incomplete. Many more are still missing. The majority of the 200 Britons missing or dead were in Thailand, where the death toll has exceeded 5,000.

The relatives who were holidaying with the Hoys have returned to Britain, while Mr Hoy's parents have flown to Thailand from their home in Ellesmere, Shropshire, to comfort his widow.

One of the relatives, who works in Aberdeen but declined to be named yesterday, said that they had left the beach just two hours before the waters came.

The relative spoke of the desperate search for the family. "We went looking for them but I cannot imagine them surviving now. The place was flattened. It is very sad They were lovely kids, you could not wish for a better set of kids. They were bright, lively kids with a great future - that makes it all the harder."

Meanwhile, more details of the British dead and missing continued to emerge. The Ground Force presenter Charlie Dimmock was said to be inconsolable as she waited for news of her mother and stepfather, who are missing from the Thai resort of Phuket.

Sue Kennedy, 59, a public relations executive and her husband Rob, 60, have not made contact since the waves struck on Boxing Day. The couple had flown to Cambodia on 17 December and were planning to travel around the region during their holiday.

Pupils at Neville Lovett Community School in Fareham, Hampshire, were told that their classroom assistant, Heather Gill, had been killed while on holiday in Phuket. The 42-year-old from Lee-on-Solent was separated from her husband, Steve, and 17-year-old daughter Charlotte, who both survived.

The father of the backpacker Clare Jackson, 25, who was studying at Exeter University, confirmed that he had identified the body of his daughter. She died when the water pulled her away from her boyfriend in Tangarra, Sri Lanka.

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