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Asia-pacific

Girl reunited with family seven years after tsunami

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-12-23

A 14-year-old Indonesian girl who was swept away in the devastating 2004 tsunami has been reunited with her family after seven years, her parents said Friday.

AFP - An Indonesian girl separated from her family during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami has been reunited with her relatives after seven years living as a street child, her parents said Friday.

Mary Yuranda, who is now 14, showed up at a cafe in the city of Meulaboh, in the tsunami-battered Aceh province, looking for her parents.

She was reunited with them on Wednesday after a local taxi driver identified her family from details she had provided, ending a seven-year ordeal in which she lived with a widow who forced to beg on the streets.

"When she saw her mother she yelled 'mama' and ran toward her," her father, Tarmius, told AFP by telephone.

"Both of them hugged each other and cried," he said.

Mary's mother, Yusnidar, said her daughter had grown so much that she had not immediately recognised the girl.

"The birth marks on her belly, plus a mole and a scar on her face proved that the little girl was mine," said Yusnidar, 35.

"I cannot tell you how grateful I am," she added.

The parents, who said the girl did not want to speak to reporters and was recovering from frequent beatings by the widow, said Mary separated from them after the family was swept away during the the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

The widow found the lost girl and took her to the provincial capital Banda Aceh, renamed her 'Herawati' and made her work as a beggar, handing out frequent beatings to keep the girl obedient.

Last Tuesday, Mary refused to beg any longer, enraging the widow who put here on a bus to Meulaboh.

The area was among the hardest hit during the disaster, and Mary's father recalled how the family were torn apart by the massive waves.

"We were all in a pick-up truck, trying to out race the big waves that were headed our way," Tarmius said.

"We had hardly driven out of the village when we were hit by the first big wave," he recalled.

The truck with the family of two daughters and a baby boy was swept several kilometres away and came to a stop only after hitting a two-storey house.

"We tried to climb on top of the house, but my wife and baby got trapped between the car and the house building.

"I managed to get my daughters on top of the house and grabbed the baby just before another wave washed away my wife and daughters," he said.

"When I returned home that night I tried to find my wife and two daughters," he said, adding that he had found his wife the next day.

The pair began a search for the lost girls, traveling to different districts whenever there was word of survivors being found.

Their eldest daughter is still missing.

In December 2004, a giant 9.1-magnitude quake off the coast of Aceh province on the northern tip of Sumatra triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that claimed 220,000 victims, with Indonesia accounting for three-quarters of the figure.

 

Date created : 2011-12-23

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