Menu

'Oprah' Interior Designer Hit by Tsumami

Nate Berkus (search), a celebrity interior designer and frequent guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," (search) was safe and on his way to the U.S. embassy in Sri Lanka yesterday after his South Asian adventure was turned into a nightmare by a deadly tsunami (search).

Berkus' traveling companion, Fernando Bengoechea (search), is still missing. The pair were vacationing in Sri Lanka and asleep when the deadly tidal wave slammed into the island.

"We understand he's on his way to the embassy," an "Oprah" spokeswoman said. "But his traveling companion has not been heard from."

When the wave hit, Berkus and Bengoechea were swept into the sea along with braying animals, wreckage and other people. They grabbed onto a telephone pole but were ripped away from it when a second wave struck.

Berkus, 33, climbed onto a rooftop, but Bengoechea didn't.

Berkus told a reporter that he and about 50 other locals and tourists spent the night in a field and that many were injured.

On Sunday, someone was able to find a phone and hook it up to a car battery — Berkus used it to call friends and family, including staffers at "Oprah."

"We've subsequently heard that the entire group [of 50] has been rescued," the "Oprah" spokeswoman said.

Berkus said he lost everything in the disaster, including his passport.

"I'm sitting here with nothing — no passport, no money, no anything, in shorts that somebody gave me," he said in a TV interview. "The bottom line is, we desperately need help here."

Berkus said that some of the injured around him were taken away by the Sri Lankan army in helicopters and the rest were told that other helicopters would return at sunrise.

An "Oprah" source could not say if there were plans for a future episode on which Berkus would talk about his experience.

"We're hoping to hear some good news that maybe Fernando will be found as well," the source said. "We're certainly not thinking about our show right now."

Berkus is the founder of Nate Berkus Associates (search), an interior design firm in Chicago. He has appeared on "Oprah" at least 20 times.

Nearly 30,000 people were killed Sunday in one of the most devastating natural disasters in years, when a wall of water — triggered by a massive earthquake off the northern Indonesian coast — slammed into 10 nations.