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Tsunami 2004 Nate Berkus and Fernando Bengoechea Complete Story

Location of Tsunami 2004

Arugam Bay was literally a seaside paradise before tsunami 2004, tucked away off the southeast coast of Sri Lanka. This place in Sri Lanka is famous for surfers paradise and the most exciting beaches where tsunami 2004 struck. The area and the view is such mesmerizing that it feels like a must visit place once in a life time. Arugam Bay is lucky to be surrounded by with loads of wildlife like monkeys, elephants, and crocodiles.

Tsunami 2004 Day

It was the day after Christmas back in 2004. Nate and Fernando were vacationing in the Stardust Hotel when the tsunami came out of nowhere. It was 9:30 a.m in the morning. Nate and Fernando were deciding about what they should do with the day today. They were planning in their hotel room which was 50 feet from the shore. Suddenly water of the tsunami 2004 started pouring into the room in seconds. Fernando started to pick things up off the floor and boom! The next thing they hear is a crack. Moments later, Nate found himself trapped on to the floor underneath the bed.


How it started

Nate explains, “I remember thinking to myself, ‘I have to get up. I have to get my face up because I can’t breathe.’ And in the next minute, it was really a miracle. The roof of the hut was torn off by the force of the water. And both Fernando and I were taken out of the hut and it just felt like we were drowning immediately…

The force of the water was so great and the debris in the water was so extreme because…all the nails and the wood and the barbed wire—you were swirling within all of those things. So I had a lot of scratches and cuts because…I was in a soup of everything.”

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Washed out

Nate and Fernando were washed out into the swirling water of tsunami 2004, and ended up popping up together. Fernando swam to Nate and they just tried to stay together. “And then a minute later, we were drowning again,” Nate says. “And we popped up again and…we were still moving forward at about 50 or 70 miles an hour, but the water wasn’t coming over our heads any longer. So you could breathe. And that was the main goal—to breathe.” We did not realized it was a tsunami 2004.

fernando bengoechea tsunami pic

As the currents swirled around the two, they tried to keep their heads above water. They were again separated and reunited in the mayhem. When they both grabbed and held onto a telephone pole and to each other, the water calmed and then Nate says Fernando kept saying, “It’s over.” “And then all of a sudden we felt the water surge again and [Fernando] looked at me and said, ‘It’s not over.’ And I felt his hand on the back of my shirt and I felt his hand slip away…And then I was drowning again.”

Felt like a Video Game

When Nate finally got up for air and the water had calmed again, “That is when I felt like I was in a video game,” he says. “And it’s the only way I can describe the sensation of my body traveling at such a speed in one direction and you visually are looking at the obstacles in your path—You have the presence of mind to have all of these obstacles coming in your path and you are really thinking about the present. It was a tsunami 2004 ”

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Nate was washed into a relatively calm area behind one of the few houses that was still standing after the first wave. “I found myself in this pool of water where I wasn’t being pushed in any direction. There was a fence: the water was about as high as the top of the fence, and the fence was made out of logs and palm fronds.”

Hope Remained

Nate believed that his only hope was in reaching that house’s roof. “Every time I stepped on a log, the water would take it away. So I would fall back, and then have to grab onto the next log. It happened about three times. Finally, the last log stayed in the ground and I was able to pull myself up on it and then reach the edge of the rooftop that was covered in red tiles.”


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Nate was determined. “I thought to myself, I just need to climb up and I’m certain that Fernando is doing the same somewhere right around here. Finally I reached out to grab the tile and the tile just broke off in my hand and I fell again. “I climbed back up on the post and I thought to myself, ‘I am going to die if I don’t get on top [of the roof],’ and somehow I was able by just squeezing the side of the rooftop to pull my whole body on top of it.

Searching Fernando

“There was a Sri Lankan man sitting hanging onto the post and once I was up on top and out of the water, I reached down to try and help him. He grabbed my hand but didn’t have the strength to come up and I don’t know what happened to him. On the rooftop, I just started calling out for Fernando and looking all around and just was expecting for him to say, ‘I’m here’ or ‘I’m hurt’ or ‘I’m in this tree.'” The tsunami 2004 made him disappear.

Fernando Bengoechea and Nate Berkus tsunami partner

From the rooftop, Nate realized that he could not stay there. “I remember thinking, ‘I have to climb back into this. If I want to survive and find [Fernando], I have to climb back in.'” So Nate lowered himself off the roof and “got into the water with bodies, with animals, with glass, barbed wire and everything and I had to walk about 150 feet back towards the direction where I thought our hotel was.” There is a tsunami 2004.

Anneli with the News

At that point, Nate ran into Anneli, a Swedish guest at the same hotel where he and Fernando were staying. Anneli told Nate that another big wave was sure to come, and that they needed to get to higher ground. They ended up staying on this hill with other survivors, stranded, for about a day.

READ ALSO  Nate Berkus Tsunami Emotional Phone-Call to His Mother

When the Rescue came

When rescue helicopters finally arrived, Nate was unsure what he needed to do. It was a tsunami 2004. “I had a minute where I just didn’t know what the right thing to do was,” he says. “Should I actually leave, or should I continue looking [for Fernando]? I was hurt, running out of food and water. Some of the water we were drinking we thought was contaminated. Nothing was left after tsunami 2004 came. I just didn’t know at that moment what the right thing to do was.

nate berkus about fernando bengoechea tsunami

And Phil [Squire, another survivor] said to me, ‘It’s the right thing to do. You should get on the helicopter because you can’t do anything for him here.” On the hilltop, someone miraculously had a cell phone that worked. A cell phone in tsunami 2004 was something unexpected. Nate had a turn on the phone. He left an emotional message for his mother, Nancy Golden, which she says she’ll never forget or erase.

Nate never found out Fernando after that. He is presumably dead ever since.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Jacqueline Delano

    That is sooooo terrible!!! I had no idea. Nate I am so sorry for your loss. I’m so glad you found love again with Jeremiah.

  2. Sandra Stives

    Wow, I am so sorry for your loss ??, what a horrible thing to have had to go through. I can’t imagine. I’m so happy for you that you have found someone who loves you & God bless you and your family. Poppy & Oskar are Adorable ❤️.

  3. Lee C C Pratt

    Dear Nate, I am in tears, and I am so sorry for your lost. In the other hand I am so happy knowing that you found the love of your life Jeremiah! I am Izabel, from Brazil, living in Ponce Inlet, Florida. I want to invite you and your family to come to visit us. I want to give you back a little bit of so many great things you two have done for so many people. I am a simple 60 years old girl, living with my beloved boy friend, Lee and your vocation house is here. I want so much to cook for you two and for Poppy and Oskar brazilian food! I used to be a nanny and I love kids! Please give us a chance to host you darling people in our simple house but full of gratitude for all the good things you two have given to others. Thank you so much! It will be the most wonderful thing in my life to have you all here in Ponce Inlet in our house! Your home sweet home in Florida! Be safe with that Corona Virus and if one day you all can come here will be the biggest gifty I would ever have from God! Thank you and forgive my English mistakes! Hugs from me Izabel Cotto

  4. Winnifred

    The first time I heard Nate’s story was when he appeared on Oprah, it was when my heart was filled with grief for him, it was when I fell in love with my Nate follow all his stories bought his sheets and feel comforted now that he found a new love and has a wonderful family. That had made me happy.

  5. María

    Pobre Nate, cuanto lo siento,,, espero ahora seas muy feliz con tu hermosa familia.

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