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– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Indonesian girl swept away by 2004 tsunami found alive
Phuket Gazette

An Indonesian girl who was thought to have died when a huge tsunami devastated the island of Sumatra in December 2004, has been found alive and reunited with her parents, local media reported on Thursday.

Wati, who is now 15, went missing in December 2004 when a tsunami hit Ujong Baroh village in West Aceh Regency, which is located in Aceh province and was among the hardest-hit areas. The girl, 8 at the time, was being taken by her mother Yusniar to higher grounds along with her two siblings, but the girl was swept away by the rushing waters.

After searching for her missing child, Yusniar eventually gave up and accepted that her daughter had been killed by the tsunami. Both Yusniar and her other two children escaped the tsunami unharmed after they reached higher grounds.

But on Wednesday, Wati arrived at a coffee shop in Meulaboh, the capital of West Aceh, where she sat in silence. According to the Antara news agency, people initially thought the girl was a beggar but later explained that she had arrived from Banda Aceh in search of her home. However, she did not know how as she could not remember the names of her parents, although she knew her grandfather’s name is Ibrahim.

A person at the coffee shop, who is an acquaintance of Ibrahim, heard her story and made an immediate connection to Wati. He went on to take her to Ibrahim, and her family was able to identify her 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, Antara reported, but she reportedly wandered to different districts in the province of Aceh throughout the years. Her mental and physical condition were not immediately known.

On December 26, 2004, one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded struck off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. The 9.1-magnitude earthquake unleashed a deadly tsunami, striking scores of countries in the region. In all, at least 227,898 people were killed.

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. Aceh was the hardest-hit region, and some areas are still struggling to recover.

— Phuket Gazette Editors