Alive... the one text Mary's family were waiting for: Student feared she was going to die in Mexican hurricane
The parents of a student from Northern Ireland who feared she was going to die in a hurricane in Mexico have told of their relief after her text message home that simply said: "Alive."
Michael Ward, who turned 67 last week, said the one-word text from his 21-year-old daughter Mary was the "best birthday present I ever received".
Mary, from Glarryford near Ballymena, had been enjoying a gap year away from her course at Queen's University in Belfast. But when Hurricane Odile struck the resort of Cabo San Lucas on Mexico's Baja California peninsula nine days ago she thought she would never see her family again.
Mary had been able to tell her parents she was preparing to batten down the hatches as the hurricane approached. But after phone and power lines were ripped out by 125mph winds she was unable to get word to her parents in the hurricane's wake.
At least four people, including a British woman, were killed in the massive storm.
It was only after two days that she was eventually able to send the text to her worried mum and dad. It may only have been a single word, but for Michael, wife Anne and Mary's four brothers the short message was the best text they had ever received.
Odile was the worst hurricane to hit Mexico's west coast in 25 years, and the worst to hit land anywhere this year, according to Mr Ward.
"They were given a little bit of warning and it all started around 11pm on the Sunday night." he said.
"It raged through the night and as windows of buildings and cars started blowing in Mary and her Canadian flatmate sheltered in the only part of their second floor apartment without windows – an internal bathroom. The electricity was off for five days and Mary said the night of the hurricane was like being run over by a train, and boats in a nearby marina were lifted out of the water. Mary thought she was going to die and said it was terrifying."
"We believe it is a minor miracle," said her relived dad. He said that for the next two days the town descended into lawlessness with looters roaming the streets.
Eventually, Mary was airlifted to Mexico City by the government.
"It was the longest 48 hours of our lives and was a bit scary, but we were so relieved when we got that one-word text through which simply said 'Alive'," said Mr Ward.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of Mary's bad luck, as she became ill shortly afterwards. "She took chronic pains and today is in hospital awaiting an operation for what we think is appendicitis, so it has certainly been an eventful few days," he added.