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"There was so much pain that day, so many lives lost, but my focus is what we have been able to do since then." "I know it may sound strange, but surviving the tsunami gave me so many gifts," said Nemcova, now 35, who is still modelling – "in my professional old age" – between her roles as a philanthropist and entrepreneur.

"Before the tsunami, I was always living my life in the future, making plans for what I should be doing.

It was Christmas Day and life seemed perfect for Petra Nemcova.

The Czech supermodel had already graced the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, a pinnacle for anyone in her career, and was relaxing in Khao Lak, Thailand, with the man she had agreed to marry.

My life was slipping through my fingers before, now I'm living it fully in the here and now. Indeed, between globe-trotting trips for charity and work, she has lived for the last two years in Haiti, probably the only international supermodel to choose Port-au-Prince as a base.

She first visited to help build schools with the Happy Hearts Fund, falling in love with the country and then with her boyfriend Laurent Lamothe, a businessman-turned-politician who has just resigned as prime minister after the latest political upheavals.

High-rolling New Yorkers contributed more than million at a gala dinner this year at which Bill Clinton was guest of honour and she has established collaborations with companies such as Clinique and Chopard.

She was on a whistle-stop tour of meetings in New York, her irrepressible energy carrying her through on the way to Thailand, after just returning from another school-opening in Peru. "We come in when the first responders leave, typically a few months after a disaster, when it's not 'sexy' anymore, to build safe and reliable schools," she said.

I will never know how that happened." She felt herself being carried out into the Andaman by the current and knew that would mean certain death.Nemcova prefers not to discuss her private life, although her old red carpet lifestyle and former A-list romantic liaisons – she has also dated Sean Penn and James Blunt – were the inevitable fodder of glossy magazines over the years.But, she says, the fiancé whom she lost to the tsunami is still very much part of her life.But by the end of Boxing Day, she was a badly-injured survivor of the Asian tsunami, clinging to a palm tree for several hours with a shattered pelvis.Her fiancé Simon Atlee, a British fashion photographer, was missing, swept away by the crushing deluge that engulfed their beach bungalow.

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