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At that moment, I felt very light, it felt like all the particles of my body were merging into the water. "And then, as soon as I let go and accepted my fate, I was back above the water and could breathe again.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.

Her goal was to open 100 new schools by the 10th anniversary, but it just hit 107, in nine countries from Asia to South America."I want us to capture that spirit when the world pulled together and try to make a difference again," she said.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.The parents and their three children all survived the initial terror, then were separated in the catastrophe but eventually found each other amid the chaos of local hospitals.

Nemcova was just as sure at first that her fiancé had lived – "he was such a strong swimmer, of course he'd survive" – but there was to be no happy reunion story for her.

The couple were taking one final stroll along the beach as they prepared to leave their resort when they noticed the water receding, but like so many holidaymakers, they had no idea that this was the warning sign of an impending tsunami.

Untroubled, they had just returned to the bungalow when they heard screams and saw other guests outside running frantically away.

So she desperately tried to grab on to a palm tree, missing one, but catching a second one.

"I could see lots of people trying to do the same thing, waving and screaming, so much panic and suffering," she said.

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.