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Tsunami survivor Petra Nemcova on a mission to help Japan's disaster victims

21 MARCH 2011

Supermodel Petra Nemcova, who survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami but tragically lost her photographer fiancé Simon Atlee in the disaster, has told HELLO! magazine how the recent footage of Japan has brought back painful personal memories.

“My heart has been breaking,” she told HELLO!. “Just knowing what people are going through, it’s something where you just feel so powerless.”

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The model says fiancé Jamie Belman, has been "beyond incredible"



She admits that she’s found it hard to concentrate on her training for Dancing With the Stars – the first live show of the series airs this Monday in America.

Her fiancé, former Emmerdale actor Jamie Belman, has been “beyond incredible” in his support, however. “He’s there for me and it’s amazing to have that, someone who understands and is really able to give that nurturing love in difficult times,” she says.

Petra and Simon were on the last day of their holiday in the Thai resort of Khao Luk on Boxing Day 2004 when a ten-metre high tsunami wave hit the bungalow they were staying in.

The couple were immediately separated in the water and Simon later drowned. His body was found a few months later.

Petra survived, and defied doctors with a remarkably quick recovery. She had broken her pelvis in four places and suffered internal injuries.

Her mental attitude helped get her through. “I always try to direct any negative or sad energy into bringing something positive,” explained the model, who set up the Happy Hearts Fund in 2006, a charity that builds schools in areas that have been affected by natural disasters.

She tells HELLO! that the organisation are “making preparations” for a trip to Japan, but they won’t visit until the first responders have gone.

Petra, 31, also has her wedding to plan – and it is likely to take place in England, where her fiancé was born. Marchesa will be designing the dress. “We feel very, very lucky,” she told HELLO!. “We have lots to celebrate.”

The wedding date hasn’t been booked but in the meantime Petra has Dancing with the Stars to prepare for. Is she a natural? “Oh no, I’m a clumsy elephant,” she laughed. She hopes that her appearance on the show, will help “shine the light” on her charity.

Read the full interview in HELLO!, out now

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