Originally created 12/29/04

Resident's family is OK in Asia



David Benoy didn't have a chance to worry whether his wife and son were among the victims of the deadly tsunamis that drowned tens of thousands of people and devastated the coasts of South Asia on Sunday.

Fortunately, when Mr. Benoy, 60, an Augusta businessman, received an e-mail from Thailand early that morning confirming their safety, it was the first he had heard of the natural disaster.

The e-mail revealed his wife and son missed the deadly tsunami by one day.

Still, at that point, media coverage of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunamis hadn't revealed the enormity of the situation, he said.

The earthquake, centered off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, created massive waves that have killed more than 58,000 people in 10 countries. The number of dead is expected to rise as thousands more remain missing and survivors face outbreaks of disease and hunger.

A tsunami, meaning "harbour wave" in Japanese, is a wave that results from seismic activity beneath the ocean. It can reach heights of more than 100 feet and strike with deadly consequences. Hardest hit by these tsunamis were the nations of Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, Indonesia and even the African country of Somalia, located 3,000 miles away from the epicenter.

Mr. Benoy said his wife, Kathy, left Dec. 16 to visit their 25-year-old son, Zach, who is studying Chinese in Thailand. They were supposed to be in Phuket, a Thai tourist destination popular for its beaches, on the day the tsunamis obliterated the island. But, they stayed in Hua Hin, Thailand, an extra day.

Mr. Benoy said he isn't worried about his family, not even his wife, who once expressed a fear of earthquakes.

She keeps the family updated through cheerful, upbeat e-mails and cell phone calls, Mr. Benoy said. Mrs. Benoy is expected to return Jan. 12, he said.

As a result of the disaster, they have changed their plans and are traveling spontaneously, or in the "Zen-style," to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Singapore, he said.

"I'm sure they're fine," he said. "If something doesn't seem safe, they'll go someplace else."

Reach Kate Lewis at (706) 823-3215 or kate.lewis@augustachronicle.com.