In 2004, Thailand experienced one of the largest tsunamis in the country’s history, killing 8,500 people. Eight-year-old Amber found herself on the brink of danger, but help came from where they didn’t expect.
Eight-year-old Amber Owen arrived in Phuket a few days before Christmas with her mother Samantha and stepfather Eddie. The family stayed in a seaside hotel in the resort town of Chong Thale. Every morning, Ning Nong, a four-year-old elephant, was brought to the beach to entertain tourists.
Vacationers could feed him bananas and ride on his back. Amber liked to communicate with him, and he reciprocated, hugging her with his trunk.
On the morning of December 26, the Owen’s at the hotel felt a slight tremor that soon stopped, after which Samantha and her daughter went to the beach.
Amber immediately rushed to her elephant friend. She climbed on his back to ride, but noticed that the animal was behaving strangely – Ning Nong was trying to leave the beach all the time without listening to the owner’s instructions.
Suddenly, something incredible began to happen. The water suddenly began to creep away from the shore, exposing the beach.
Some people rushed to collect fish and shells. Other vacationers continued to lie on the sun loungers, wondering about the rare occurrence.
But literally in a few minutes, “big water” began to arrive. The waves knocked people off their feet and pulled them in different directions.
Amber, who was still on Ning Nong’s back, grabbed him with her hands and he, without even trying to throw her off, made his way through the strong current to the hotel. The baby elephant stopped at a high wall and waited patiently for Amber to reach a safe height.
Samantha, who had already noticed her daughter, grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the bubbling stream. Now they were standing on a small hill among the treetops. When the water drained a few minutes later, Samantha grabbed Amber and walked quickly toward the hotel, realizing that a second wave was coming soon.
She had to walk knee-deep in water and move through debris.
After 10 minutes, when the mother and the girl reached the hotel, the tsunami repeated itself and completely blew off all the doors on the second floor of the hotel.
The story of Amber and her family attracted the attention of the Thai media. Journalists decided to find out about the fate of Ning Nong.
It was not difficult to find an elephant in Thailand – all native elephants there have their own passports and are registered with special services.
It turned out that Ning Nong was alive – yes, she turned out to be an elephant – and now she is called Bai-Tong. The former owner could no longer support the adult animal and sold the baby elephant. Bai Tong now lives in an elephant camp in the western province of Kanchanaburi. For her friendliness, tourists love her as well as her new owner, who now calls the elephant a “hero.”