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Survivor success story

London, Aug. 31: As the Czech model clung to a palm tree to stop herself from drowning, she watched helplessly as Simon Atlee, 33, a British fashion photographer, disappeared.

Since then, Petra Nemcova, 27, who suffered a broken pelvis and internal injuries, has managed to rebuild her life, setting up a charity — the Happy Hearts Fund — to help child survivors of the disaster and finding love again with James Blunt, the pop singer.

Yesterday, her fortunes rose further when she was named as the face of a new campaign for John Lewis.

The John Lewis Partnership is one of Britain’s top retail businesses with 26 department stores across the country.

The retail chain chose Nemcova to front its autumn/winter collection, which will include clothes from Joseph, Principles and its own brand JL.

It hopes that the campaign will emulate the success of the Marks & Spencer advertisements, which featured the models Twiggy, Erin ’Connor and Laura Bailey.

Nemcova, who has modelled for Cartier, La Perla and Max Factor, said yesterday that she was a huge fan of John Lewis.

Mark Forsyth, from John Lewis, said that Nemcova was ideal for the campaign.

“Petra was great to work with, she’s relaxed and genuinely enjoyed trying on the looks we created,” he said. “Her ageless beauty strikes a chord across a wide range of customer audiences from the 20- and 30-somethings, through to the fashion conscious 40- and 50-somethings.”

Nemcova and Atlee were staying in a beach front bungalow at the Khao Lak resort in Thailand when the tsunami struck, pulling the couple out of the hut and throwing them into a sea of debris.

She survived by holding on to a palm tree for eight hours, managing to keep her head above the water.

Battered by debris, she watched as bodies floated past her. Eventually she was found by rescuers and taken to a hospital on a makeshift stretcher.

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