Breck couple making a difference to victims of south Asia tsunami |

Breck couple making a difference to victims of south Asia tsunami

JANE STEBBINSsummit daily news
AP Photo/Eranga JayawardenaN. Rilwan , a tsunami survivor swings in a make shift swing as unusable clothes are seen in the back ground at a shelter for displaced people in Galle , Sri Lanka on Tuesday, Feb.8. 2005. Among the unprecedented aid that has poured into the country following the Dec. 26 tsunami, anxious individuals from all corners of the world have shipped over items that are of no use here like expired foodstuff, stiletto shoes, winter tents and even Viagra pills, that take up precious time to sort out and space to store.

BRECKENRIDGE – After surviving the December Indian Ocean tsunami, Jim and Cheryl Beck are helping get supplies to survivors in villages that were wiped out in the natural disaster.The Breckenridge couple was in Phuket, Thailand, when an 8.9-magnitude earthquake triggered a series of waves that killed tens of thousands of people in southeast Asia.The Becks have lived in Breckenridge for more than three decades. Jim works as a boat surveyor for insurance companies in Summit County and Phuket. Cheryl is a watercolor artist.Jim Beck wrote an e-mail to friends shortly after the tsunami saying that they had felt a small earthquake while in their hotel in Phuket but didn’t think much about it. They were working on rebuilding the interior of their boat, the Ptarmigan, when the lights went out.”To our amazement, we saw a river of water pouring over the marina wall onto the hardstand and swirling and gushing and getting deeper by the second,” Beck said.

They sped around collecting items underneath the dry-docked boat – shoes and newly varnished hatches among them – as the water level rose. Ultimately, it rose 2 feet above the dock, which is normally well above the marina level, Beck reported.”Then suddenly it was gone,” he said. “At the time, it was all just an interesting phenomenon.”Then the news reports started coming in. Phone lines were down, but they were able to get an e-mail to friends in Breckenridge within a few days. In the next several weeks, the Becks witnessed the destruction: boats tossed ashore, buildings wiped down to their concrete slabs, people looking for missing friends and relatives.”Everything looked like it has been run through a chopper – not just broken, but shredded,” Beck said. “The Coconut Restaurant, the house behind it, the tailor shop, the mini-mart – everything was gone. There was only a lone backhoe scraping at the remains.”Volunteers, including the Becks, are now rebuilding the devastated communities.

The couple’s boat is currently berthed in Kuah, Langkawi, Malaysia, where the Becks are working with people from all over the world in an operation called “Waves of Mercy.”Waves of Mercy is a group of volunteers made up mainly of sailors who are either based in or passing through Langkawi in the northwest corner of Malaysia about 120 miles from Phuket.In late January, taxis picked up the volunteers for the trip to the commercial port where they loaded a ferry with 2,800 pounds of rice, water makers, bottled water, palettes of vegetables, 200 mosquito nets, kerosene lamps, 80 to 100 gallons of kerosene, hammers, nails, medical supplies, bedding and clothing – 20 tons in all.Almost two months after the tsunami, communities are coming together, Beck wrote in a Feb. 9 e-mail, but more volunteers and supplies are still needed.”The doctors and nurses have been in Aceh for three weeks but are very overworked and need relief,” Beck said. “The Red Cross finally arrived Jan. 27 to take over the hospital work. There is apparently a great need for field work in this area as many of the coastal villages have no means or access to medical assistance.”

Despite the progress, many of those in the yachting community feel it could get worse.”Many of the little fishing villages on the western coast of Sumatra are difficult at best to access by any other means than boat,” Beck said. “Consequently, we fear that there is much devastation yet to be discovered.”He said people interested in donating money, supplies or time to the rebuilding efforts can learn more at “We were thrilled to be part of this, if only for a short time,” Beck said. “People are helping people clean up and rebuild dreams that were shattered just the day after Christmas. It’s truly one of the miracles of humanity taking place in Phuket right now.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at

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