The Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 caused biblical levels of devastation and loss of life across large parts of south and southeast Asia.
The scale of the tragedy was only matched by the myriad extraordinary stories of survival and generosity – from the tales of people who helped shelter those affected to the remarkable outpouring of support from right across the world.
The story of British brothers Rob and Paul Forkan is not only one of survival against terrible odds but also of generosity of spirit.
The brothers (Rob was 17 and Paul 15) lost their parents on that fateful day – dad Kevin and mom Sandra managed to get their youngest daughters, 12-year-old Mattie and 8-year-old Rosie to safety before being swept away.
Rob and Paul had survived by clinging to the roof of a building.
Their parents had quit their jobs in fashion and sold their home in south London in 2001 to travel the world and work on charity projects with their brood.
After the tragedy, the kids managed to find their way from southern Sri Lanka to the British High Commission in Colombo with the help of locals. After returning to the UK and completing their education, the brothers came up with the idea to create Gandys Flip Flops, an ethical footwear company which donates a portion of profits to supporting disadvantaged and orphaned children in Sri Lanka and south India.
Rob Forkan was the guest of honour at a special commemorative ceremony at the Sri Lankan High Commission this week, held to mark ten years since the events of 26 December 2004.
Weeks earlier, Rob and Paul had returned from Sri Lanka after overseeing the establishment of a brand new children’s home, funded by their foundation.
Guests at the event also heard from Cherie Blair, about her memories of the day and a disaster management expert on Sri Lanka’s response in the immediate aftermath of the Tsunami.
But first, the UKasian caught up Rob Forkan to discuss his remarkable journey and flip flops.