After 18 hours of waiting for the airport to open, passengers on the first flight out of the Maldives into Singapore landed at Changi Airport at 12.30 am on Tuesday.
The Maldives government has declared a state of emergency after Sunday’s tsunami waves covered two-thirds of the capital in water.
An idyllic holiday turned into a living nightmare for the Devlin family when tsunami waves more than a metre high swept through the resort where they were staying.
“It looked like a tornado had hit. The entire area around the pool had been completely destroyed, and buildings, walls had been knocked down,” Michael Devlin, a Singapore permanent resident, told Channel NewsAsia.
“The water just came behind the third wave, full power. Everyone was running; the whole deck around the pool was lifted off; you couldn’t see anyone at the pool who was originally there. I ran out and tried to get my kids but I couldn’t see them. I had no idea where everyone had gone, everyone had just been washed off the pool house.”
Said 11-year-old Tyler Devlin, “My friend was behind me and he was screaming and it sounded as if I was never ever going to see him again. I got upstairs and my dad was still downstairs and he thought that we were all swept out to sea; then my friend’s dad, he told us we were all safe.”
Fortunately for the Devlin family, they found each other shortly after the third tsunami wave receded.
“We feel really really lucky because we saw some of the devastation and my heart really goes out to them,” said Mr Devlin’s wife, Crys Won.
But for some in the Maldives, the fate of their loved ones remains a mystery.
Most of the houses that line the Maldives’ beaches are built on stilts; when the powerful waves came, those houses just collapsed.