18 years ago, Norwegian-Danish singer Heine Totland, found himself and his family in a nightmare when they were caught in the middle of the tsunami that hit Thailand in December 2004.
Although the 51-year-old has spoken about the frightening experience before, he now opens up completely in a recent interview with local media Dagbladet.
In 2004 Heine Totland, his wife Silje Nergaard, and his two children were on a holiday on Koh Lanta in Thailand together with other family members.
When the tsunami hit he was alone with his two children, Erle who was 7 at the time, and Karla who was 18 months, and his nine-year-old niece and his seven-year-old nephew. Because he could not take all four children at the same time he had to tell the oldest children to swim for their life while he took Karla who was the youngest.
“I had to take care of Karla because the others could swim. We have been focused on teaching them to swim from the age of four,” Heine says.
Everyone survived the tsunami disaster but it was a chaotic and traumatizing experience.
He had a firm grip on his young daughter and explains that they were washed inwards. “We went to the bottom, got a sunbed in our heads, everything was chaotic,” he says and explains that while he was with his youngest daughter, he did not know where the other three children were.
Heine Totland’s wife, Silje Nergaard, has also previously spoken about the nightmare experience in Thailand and she has said that at first, she did not understand what was about to happen.
Together with her sister, they walked along the beach where they saw several fish lying in the sand. Suddenly the wave hit them and Silje Nergaard managed to hold on to a palm tree while everything around her washed away.
“I remember thinking: I have to fight now. I have to fight for my life,” she said.
After a while, she and her sister swam back to the hotel where they found her husband and all four children alive.
“Heine and the children all had different struggles in the waves and had been scattered, but he managed to hold onto Karla and the three older children found each other again and survived,” she said. She pointed out that although their family was lucky, it was not like that for everyone.
“The tsunami is a memory that will always be there, but I have a distance to it now and I no longer remember the feeling of fear of death,” she said.