But supermodel Petra Nemcova survived Thailand's historic 2004 tsunami that killed thousands.
Nemcova sat down with "Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts to share her story of survival and discuss how she plans to help the victims in Japan.
She said seeing the images of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last Friday was horrifying.
"My heart was broken and my love is going to everyone in Japan," she said. "It's something so hard to imagine without going through it. I can imagine it because of my experiences. You just feel hopelessness."
Nemcova was vacationing in Thailand in December of 2004 when a deadly tsunami slammed into her beachfront resort.
Her boyfriend, fashion photographer Simon Atlee, was killed. Nemcova survived by clinging to a palm tree for eight harrowing hours.
"The power is so enormous, you feel powerless," she said. "You can't do anything, because the more you fight, the more you lose energy and chances of survival you are losing."
After recovering from her physical wounds, Nemcova started a charity called the Happy Hearts Fund, which helps rebuild children's lives after natural disasters.
"We rebuild schools," she said. "It gives the normalcy and elevates the whole community."
Now Nemcova is appealing for the public's support in Japan.
Next Monday, Nemcova will be on "Dancing With the Stars."