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Missing Indonesian Girl, Feared Dead, Reunited with Family Seven Years After Devastating Tsunami

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HVnews

By HVnews
December 22, 2011 at 9:05 am



Before Japan in 2011, there was Indonesia in 2004. A massive 9.1 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra unleashed a deadly tsunami that ravaged 14 countries. In all, some 230,000 people died, with most of them coming from Indonesia, and specifically, the region of Aceh.

The Boxing Day tsunami pre-dated the rise of YouTube and smart phones. Footage of the disaster isn’t so all over the place. But to understand the amazing story of a now-15-year-old girl being reunited with her family seven years after the disaster, we need to remember the tsunami’s devastation.

Pretty gruesome. Indonesia was the worst affected area, with an estimated death toll of at least 170,000, although some estimates have put the death toll in Indonesia alone at as high as 220,000.

Wati was just eight years old when Ujong Baroh village in West Aceh, where her family lived, was hit by the tsunami. Indonesia didn’t have much of a warning system, unlike Japan, so many of the coastal citizens were caught off guard by the incredible wrath of nature.

During the chaos, Wati’s mother, Yusniar, was trying to get her three children to a safe place. Somehow, Wati lost her grip on her mother`s arm and she was swallowed by the rushing waters, leaving her mother powerless to help her. She was swept away.

Yusniar managed to save her other two children. After searching for her daughter, Yusniar eventually gave up. The family resigned themselves that Wati was gone, likely dead, and they would never see her again.

Flash-forward seven years to Wednesday.

Wati arrived at a coffee shop in Meulaboh, the capital of West Aceh, where she sat in silence. Most people assumed she was a beggar. According to Antara News Agency, Wati told people she was trying to get back home. She said she arrived in West Aceh from Banda Aceh by bus. She couldn’t remember the names of her parents, but she thought she had a grandfather named Ibrahim.

An acquaintance of her grandfather took Wati to visit the man on the off-hand chance this girl was his long-lost granddaughter. After listening to the girl’s account, Ibrahim began to feel the tingling sensation you get when something strange, unexpected, and almost surreal happens. Ibrahim called his daughter Yusniar, and soon enough the family was able to identify Wati by a small mole and scar above her eyebrow, which she got when she was six years old.

It was not immediately known what happened to Wati after she was washed away by the tsunami, according to Antara, but she reportedly wandered to and through different districts in the province of Aceh throughout the years. Her mental and physical condition were not immediately known.

The story is missing a lot of details, the biggest being what happened to Wati in the seven years between the tsunami and the reunion. How did she survive? But it’s a wild, amazing story. Hopefully, an enterprising magazine journalist ventures to West Aceh to tell this amazing story in full detail.

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