American who survived tsunami tells of devastation
Regular guest on 'Oprah' safe, but friend missing in Sri Lanka
Sunday, December 26, 2004 Posted: 8:41 PM EST (0141 GMT)
(CNN) -- A celebrity interior decorator vacationing in Sri Lanka said Monday that all he could
see was "utter devastation" in the wake of a deadly tsunami that slammed the island.
"We were completely devastated yesterday morning," Nate Berkus told CNN. "There was absolutely no warning."
Berkus, a regular contributor to "The Oprah Winfrey Show," said he and a friend were sleeping in a beachfront cottage at
Arugam Bay on Sri Lanka's eastern coast when he heard a loud noise and the roof was ripped off.
Berkus, 33, said they were swept into the sea along with debris, animals and other people.
The two grabbed a telephone pole, he said, but lost their grips when a second large wave hit. Berkus told CNN that he climbed
onto the roof of a home; his friend was missing.
Berkus said he and about 50 other survivors -- tourists and locals -- spent the rest of the night in a field, but were
without water and food. Many of the group were injured, including a pregnant woman who had broken ribs, he said.
Members of the Sri Lankan army had taken a few of the injured away in helicopters, he said, and told the rest of the group
that other helicopters would arrive at sunrise.
"It's just been utter devastation. Bodies everywhere," Berkus said. "I'm very scraped up, but luckily I'm OK ... against
that kind of force of nature, there was nothing any of us could do."
Berkus said that lost everything he had with him.
"I'm sitting here with nothing -- no passport, no money, no anything, in shorts that somebody gave me ... the bottom line
is, we desperately need help here."
Berkus is the founder of Nate Berkus Associates in Chicago, Illinois. He has made at least 20 appearances on "Oprah."