By HUGH KEARNEY
A SENIOR Kingscliff couple are counting their lucky stars after miraculously cheating death in the deadly tsunami which struck their holiday resort in Thailand. On Sunday, Margaret and Tony Manzi were into the third day of a planned two-week stay at the idyllic Patong Lodge overlooking Patong Beach on the popular tourist island of Phuket. Back home at Kingscliff, Tony Manzi (86) said yesterday if he had not been confined to his hotel bed because of a fall down a stairwell on Christmas Eve, he and his wife Margaret, who turns 70 this month, would have been sunning themselves on Patong Beach at the very time the giant wave swept in. Safely back on home soil at Noble Park, the Manzis told a story of horrible destruction and human tragedy all around them, and the fateful accident which most probably saved their lives. "We went to the Christmas Eve party up on the fifth floor and I only had a couple of Cokes, but I lost my footing on the stairs," Tony said. "He cut his hands and his head and he was covered in blood, and for a while, I thought he had fractured his pelvis," Margaret said. So, instead of a planned sightseeing tour by tuk-tuk the next day, the couple stayed at the hotel, Tony recuperating in bed after Margaret had dressed his wounds. On Sunday they had planned to make a day of it on the beach, but that plan also went out the window with Tony's injury. As he slept in their first floor room, Margaret went up to breakfast on the third floor. "At about 9 o'clock we heard this awful commotion - I thought it was a car accident - and everyone rushed over to look," she said. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing. "There were the houses there and suddenly water was coming over the rooftops," she said. "There was a big explosion and the houses only 40 or 50 metres away just disappeared. ??"The water kept rushing in, but the hotel is on high ground up a long driveway and that is what saved us. "Houses, cottages, shops, motorbikes and people, they all just disappeared in front of our eyes - it was absolutely horrifying. Even the road was torn up, we couldn't believe what we were seeing, it was just devastating," Margaret said. "I grew up in Glasgow during the blitz and I've seen the damage done by high explosives, but this was something else." The Manzis along with other hotel guests were ushered to higher ground, but further ex- pected tsunamis did not arrive. With telephone services stretched to break- ing, the couple then began the agonising effort to let their families know they were still alive. After three days with the help of the hotel manager, Margaret was given a direct line to the exchange operator who connected her with her sister Hilda's family in Hobart. Meanwhile, Hilda, unable to get any news, was planning to fly to Thailand to look for Margaret and Tony. Tony's daughter Angela, also unable to con- tact her dad, had booked a flight to Thailand to go and search for him. "When we finally got through, it was very emotional but very happy for everyone," Mar- garet said.