Thailand tsunami survivor Petra Nemcova has some advice for those dealing with the effects of the estimated 8.9 earthquake that rocked Japan early Friday morning.
“One of the most important things when you’re amongst [a] natural disaster is just to stay calm and it’s very hard to do, but if you are not calm and focused, you [can miss] the opportunities to either help someone or help yourself survive,” the supermodel told Access Hollywood on Friday morning, as the emotional “Dancing with the Stars” contender reacted to the devastating news coming out of Japan.
“There’s the famous saying, six degrees of separation, but when [a] natural disaster happens there’s no degree of separation because… now the world is so small, so even if the earthquake happened in Japan, so many people were affected, even here in New York City, having friends there or even feeling [concern for others],” Petra added.
Petra lost her boyfriend, photographer Simon Atlee, in 2004, after he was swept away and eventually drowned following the Thailand tsunami, caused by an earthquake in the Indian ocean. The model herself was also left with severe injuries, including a broken pelvis, as she clung to a palm tree for survival, as the floods ravaged Thailand.
The tragedy prompted her to create the Happy Hearts Fund in 2005, which focuses on children, improving the lives of young ones in natural disaster volatile areas through education, rebuilding and relief efforts.
Petra said her organization, which jumps in during the gap between the first responders leaving and the rebuilding process beginning, has already been active following the first quake in Japan, monitoring the situation.
“I woke up this morning to the earthquake alert, which I’m getting because of Happy Hearts,” she said. “[The alerts tell] you where it is, what is the magnitude of earthquakes, what are the possibilities for casualties and the danger of it and there was a big tsunami warning.”
The model said that watching some of the footage that has come in from Japan, was a very emotional experience.
“When I looked at those videos, it’s very hard to look at them. What’s the hard part [for me, is] seeing… people trying to escape in their cars and knowing that this can be prevented,” Petra said, tearing up. “And a lot of people don’t know how to recognize a tsunami, what to do, what to do during an earthquake and the simple disaster preparedness education is not applied anywhere.
“I think it’s such a crime not to have disaster preparedness in the curriculum and seeing that, I know that lots of lives could be saved, just by knowing what to do, how to recognize it and being more prepared instead of being reactive. [Be] proactive,” she added.