Back in 2004, Thailand experienced one of the worst natural disasters in a long time, a tsunami killing almost 8,500 people.
One of the people that was affected by the tsunami was eight-year-old Amber Owen from the UK, but her story is one of beauty.
Amber and her family arrived at Phuket, Thailand a few days before the disaster, and they stayed in a seaside hotel where she met Ning Nong, a young elephant cub.
Tourists would feed him and ride him, Amber especially loved to communicate with him, and he reciprocated with lots of cute hugs.
On the morning of the disaster, Amber and her mom Samantha went to the beach, Amber went to play straight to Ning Nong.
As she attempted to ride on his back, she noticed Ning Nong acting odd and trying to leave the beach.
“Ning Nong seemed really agitated. He kept turning away from the sea and was anxious,” Amber recalls.
It was Ning Nong’s actions at this moment that saved Amber’s life.
Then, as with tsunamis, the water began to flow away from the beach, causing people to rush and collect shells and even fish on the sand.
Nobody thought much of it, other than Ning Nong, and a few minutes later, the huge wave arrived and started to drag people in all directions.
The only thing Amber could do was hold on to Ning Nong, who rather than throw her off, ran through the powerful current to safety.
He walked until he reached a tall wall where he waited in safety with Amber on his back.
“I was so scared. I could have just been swept away if it wasn’t for him. Despite being so young, it’s a day I will always remember.”
Samantha was eating breakfast when she heard screams, so she looked for Ning Nong in the hope she would also find Amber.
“Someone told me he was dead, and I just panicked. Amber was always with him so I knew she’d be on his back,” said Samantha.
“Finally I saw Ning Nong at the other end of the beach, protected against a wall, with Amber. I was hysterical.”
“For the elephant to sense something, run away like that and pop Amber up on a wall is incredible.”
As soon as the water calmed down, Samantha rushed back to the hotel with Amber, anticipating a second wave.
After a 10-minute trek through knee-deep water and active debris, they made it to the hotel, just in time.
The second wave hit, and wiped out all the ground floor rooms of the hotel, luckily, Amber and Samantha were safe.
“Thankfully by then, Amber was safe on the first floor of the hotel with me and Eddie. I am glad, at only eight years old, she didn’t see the danger that we could see.”
Amber’s story reached the Thai media and now has been made into a hit show and book by Michael Morpurgo, the man behind Warhorse.