Tilly Smith

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Tilly Smith (born 1994) is an English woman who has been credited with saving the lives of about 100 beachgoers at Mai Khao Beach in Thailand by warning them minutes before the arrival of the tsunami caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.[1][2] Smith, who was ten years old at the time, had learned about tsunamis in her geography class.


Smith was educated at Danes Hill School, an independent school in the village of Oxshott in Surrey, followed by Stowe School, a boarding independent school in the civil parish of Stowe in Buckinghamshire.[citation needed]

Smith learned about tsunamis in a geography lesson[3][4] two weeks before the tsunami from her teacher Andrew Kearney at Danes Hill School[5] in Oxshott, Surrey.[6][7] She recognised the signs and alerted her parents, who warned others on the beach and the staff at the hotel in Phuket where they were staying.[8] The beach was evacuated before the tsunami reached shore, and was one of the few beaches on the island with no reported casualties.[9][10]

Smith's family declined requests to be interviewed by commercial and national broadcasters, but Smith appeared at the United Nations in November 2005, where she met the U.N. Special Envoy for Tsunami Relief, Bill Clinton,[1][11][12] and at the first anniversary in Phuket, as part of a campaign to highlight the importance of education.

Awards and recognition[edit]

On 9 September 2005 Smith received the Thomas Gray Special Award of The Marine Society & Sea Cadets from Second Sea Lord, Vice-Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent.[5][7]

Minor planet 20002 Tillysmith has been named after her.[13]

In December 2005, Smith was named "Child of the Year" by the French magazine Mon Quotidien (a magazine targeted to young readers).[1][8] At the official tsunami commemorations on the first anniversary of the tsunami held at Khao Lak, Thailand on 26 December 2005, she was given the honour of reading a poem to thousands of spectators.[14]

"It wasn't devastation or death that won the day. It was humanity that triumphed, the shining victory of generosity, courage, love."

— from poem by Naowarat Pongpaiboon[15]

Smith's story is incorporated into many teaching resources for children about earthquakes, tsunamis and how to stay safe.[1][8][14][16]


  1. ^ a b c d Rothery, David (2015). Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis: A Complete Introduction: Teach Yourself. Hachette UK. ISBN 9781473601727. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  2. ^ "Schoolgirl 'angel' returns with poem". The Irish Times. 27 December 2005. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  3. ^ de Blij, Harm (2012). Why Geography Matters: More Than Ever. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199977253. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  4. ^ Shaw, Rajib; Takeuchi, Yukiko; Qi, Ru Gwee; Shiwaku, Koichi (2011). "Disaster Education: An Introduction". In Shaw, Rajib; Shiwaku, Koichi; Takeuchi, Yukiko (eds.). Disaster Education. Emerald Group Publishing. p. 1. ISBN 9780857247384. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Award for tsunami warning pupil" BBC News 9 September 2005, retrieved 19 March 2008
  6. ^ "Girl, 10, used geography lessons to save lives" Daily Telegraph 1 January 2005 retrieved 16 December 2005
  7. ^ a b Diacu, Florin (2010). Megadisasters: The Science of Predicting the Next Catastrophe. Princeton University Press. pp. 18-20. ISBN 9780691133508. Retrieved 7 December 2018. Tilly Smith tsunami Diacu.
  8. ^ a b c Dengler, Lori (23 March 2016). "Tilly Smith, Kamome and having 'the talk' with your children". Times Standard. Eureka, California. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  9. ^ Hornig, Jessica (22 January 2009). "From Fear to Survival: Knowledge Is Key". ABC News. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  10. ^ Eden, Jessica (27 February 2018). "Shaky Ground: Tilly Smith, Child Hero". KHSU Diverse Public Radio. Arcata, California. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  11. ^ "UN / TSUNAMI TILLY SMITH". UN Audiovisual Library. 3 November 2005. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  12. ^ "British schoolgirl hero meets President Clinton: "All children should know what a tsunami is... and how to react," says Tilly Smith". UNISDR United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. 3 November 2005. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  13. ^ "JPL Small-Body Database Browser".
  14. ^ a b Malaspina, Ann (2007). Tsunamis. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. pp. 39-40. ISBN 9781404209787. Retrieved 7 December 2018. Tilly Smith tsunami.
  15. ^ Tsunami remembrance ceremony Khaolak commemoration Andaman coastal provinces, 26 December 2007, retrieved 19 March 2008
  16. ^ Larson, Kirsten (2015). Tsunamis. Carson-Dellosa Publishing. pp. 24–25. ISBN 9781634306195. Retrieved 7 December 2018.

External links[edit]