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Indonesian family finds daughter swept away in 2004 tsunami


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An Indonesian girl swept away in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami has been found a decade after she was given up for dead, according to her family.

Wati, 15, showed up at a cafe in Meulaboh, in Aceh province, Indonesia, earlier this week saying that not long after the wave hit she was found and “adopted” by a woman who forced her to beg in the streets, sometimes until 1am. When she stopped bringing in money, Wati was kicked out by the woman. She then set out to find her family, but had very little information to guide her – only the name of her grandfather, Ibrahim.

Someone at the cafe tracked down a man by that name who quickly summoned her parents, unsure if it was actually his granddaughter. “When I saw my mother, I knew it was her. I just knew it,” said Wati on Friday, who was given that name by the woman who found her and whose original name is Meri Yuranda. “God has given us a miracle,” said Jamaliah, the mother of Raudhatul Jannah, who went missing when she was four.

Jannah and her seven-year-old brother were carried off when huge waves struck their home in West Aceh district on 26 December 2004. Jamaliah, 42, and her husband survived the tsunami that killed tens of thousands in Aceh on western Sumatra island. They had long ago given up hope of finding either of their children alive. But in June Jamaliah’s brother spotted a girl in a village walking home from school who bore a striking resemblance to Jannah.

He made inquiries and found out the girl had been caught up in the tsunami and swept from Aceh to some remote islands south-west of the province. A fisherman rescued the girl, took her back to the mainland and handed her to his mother, who raised the youngster, according to Jamaliah. After the tip-off from her brother Jamaliah and her husband visited the girl, now aged 14, in late June and discovered it was indeed their daughter who went missing a decade earlier.

“My husband and I are very happy,” Jamaliah told AFP. “I am so grateful to God for reuniting us with our child after 10 years of being separated. “My heart beat so fast when I saw her. I hugged her and she hugged me back and felt so comfortable in my arms,” she said, adding that she could not stop the “tears from flowing” during the reunion.

Jannah, who was called Wenni by the elderly woman who raised her, returned to her hometown to be with her parents on Wednesday. The family believed her brother, Arif Pratama Rangkuti, also survived after being swept away to the same islands but his whereabouts were unknown, Jamaliah said. The tsunami killed more than 170,000 people in Aceh and tens of thousands of others in other countries around the Indian Ocean.

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