It began as the honeymoon of their dreams and turned into a fight for survival. In the first of a three-part series a year after the south Asian tsunami, Lindsay Jennings speaks to a couple who almost lost their lives in the disaster.

THEY felt the tremor at 8am as they lay in bed on Boxing Day. Greg and Louise Harrand had only been married two weeks and were on their honeymoon on the tiny Thai island of Ko Phi Phi. The sun was shining on their wooden beachfront bungalow and another blissful day beckoned. Only the tremor gave an indication of the horror which was to follow.

"We didn't know it was the earthquake," says Louise, 32. "It felt like if you live in a house next to a railway track and the train goes by. There was a slight rocking which woke us up and that was it."

The couple got up and went to breakfast with their friends before heading to reception to book an onward flight. While inside, they spotted dozens of people running past the hotel entrance.

"We thought it was part of the Christmas festivities. Then there were more people rushing past," says Greg, 32. "We began to think there was something wrong. We went out and started going in the direction everybody else was heading - but nobody knew what was happening. Then the water started coming in. At first it was only about a foot high, then people were really screaming and they were saying 'water, water, get high'."

Greg and Louise, who own Hedley House Hotel in York, found themselves literally running for their lives as they desperately tried to reach higher ground. The earthquake they had heard had caused a massive tsunami and the huge wave, which went on to devastate much of South East Asia, was about to hit their tiny island.

"I actually never saw the wave because I had my back to it but as soon as it hit we lost each other," recalls Louise. "It was about ten to 12 feet high and was like being hit by a brick wall.

"I felt myself being squeezed underwater through a space between two bits of concrete. I could feel the pressure on my ribs and back, then my ribs broke and I went through the space. I can remember a man on top of me and I couldn't get to the surface, then I got hit on the side of my head by something and I thought 'this is it, there's no way I'm getting out of this'.

'At that point I relaxed, because I'd heard that drowning was quite a peaceful way to die. I went through every emotion - anger, frustration. I thought it's not fair, my family don't know where I am. I was convinced I was going to die and I think because of that it saved my life, because I wasn't panicking.

"Then all of a sudden I came up. I got a lung full of air and the current dragged me straight back down again. But I remembered seeing a table and when I came back up I grabbed for it and hurled myself up."

Louise managed to cling onto the table. The water was swirling at roof height and taking her towards a huge pile of rubble which she knew she would slam into if she didn't get off the table. On a nearby roof she could see two men who managed to haul her to safety.

Around the corner, Greg also thought he was going to die. He had been sucked under water and was heading towards the window of a building.

"I pulled through and held on to this building for dear life," he says. "It was like being in a washing machine but with metal and glass. The power of the water was absolutely unbelievable. I surf and I've never felt anything like that.

"After about two minutes you could feel the water start to subside, like it was going down a plughole."

Once the water had subsided, Greg went through the building and freed two men who had been trapped. A woman was lying on a mattress, her leg virtually split in two from her knee to her ankle. Greg bound up her leg with a bed sheet before helping to free a 14-year-old girl.

All the time he was desperately searching for Louise. The water was so powerful it had ripped his clothes and shoes off but he had managed to pick up a sarong to cover his nakedness. Amid the carnage, he heard a man calling his name. It was a German tourist whose wife was looking after Louise in their hotel room on higher ground.

Greg and Louise sheltered in the hotel and decided to attempt to get on one of the medical helicopters leaving the island. They were covered in cuts and bruises and Louise had broken ribs and a deep cut in her chin.

They scrambled over the debris and the dead bodies. It was later reported that about ten per cent of people on the island had had to have limbs amputated because of infection caused by the filthy water.

Greg and Louise managed to secure a seat on a wooden boat which took them to a trawler and onto Phuket hospital. After treatment, and with nothing to their name but borrowed T-shirts and shorts, they slept on a bench and a lilo someone had brought them. Everywhere there were stories of kindness - the girl who brought them the lilo also gave them a toothbrush and rucksack - and of tragedy, such as the man they met who had lost his wife and children.

"Nobody had anywhere to go, but the Thai people were absolutely fantastic. Their organisation and kindness was unbelievable," says Greg.

When they got back to the UK they were on antibiotics for two months and Louise had to have the wound on her chin reopened and re-stitched. But the mental scars are taking longer to heal.

They have been on holiday to Turkey and have gone in the water. But they admit they got nervous recently when a boisterous group of people headed their way in York - bringing back memories of the crowd fleeing on Ko Phi Phi island

"It kind of freaked us out a bit," admits Louise. "There are certain smells, tastes and noises which trigger off the memories." They have had counselling to help them cope with what's happened. Greg says it wasn't so much survivor's guilt he had to deal with as the feeling he could have maybe done more to help others.

"When I found Lou that was kind of it, but I was just so exhausted," he says. "You couldn't have done any more," Louise reassures him.

The couple also have the birth of their first child to look forward to at the end of January. They always knew they wanted a family, but before the tsunami they had planned to enjoy a few more exotic holidays first. "Then, when we were in hospital, we thought holidays are rubbish, let's start a family," smiles Greg. They are to name the baby Raya if she is a girl, meaning 'friend' in Thai. It is also the name of the first island they honeymooned on.

Being pregnant has brought an added dimension to the memories for Louise. "I just think how I would have been if I'd been pregnant, because I wouldn't have survived. We feel extremely lucky."

There are other happy notes too. Their friends, who were with them when the tsunami struck, got married and had a baby last month. They still keep in touch with the German tourist who helped them and a South African couple Greg helped to reunite.

"I feel pleased I was there, because it makes life seem... well it changes things because we both came out of it and we were so lucky," says Greg. "I feel it's made me a better person. The things you argue about sometimes, we just look at each other and say 'I'm sorry, forget it' because they are so insignificant. I hope we'll always feel that way."

* Tomorrow: "How we helped rebuild a tsunami hit community".