Report: Girl thought to be swept away during tsunami found alive
An aerial photo from January 2005 shows destroyed houses in Meluaboh, in West Aceh, Indonesia.
December 22nd, 2011
11:28 AM ET

Report: Girl thought to be swept away during tsunami found alive

An 8-year-old girl who was swept away from her mother's arms during the 2004 tsunami that hit Indonesia has been found alive and reunited with her parents, according to the Indonesian state news agency Antara.

The girl, who was identified by state news only as Wati, now 15, was reportedly discovered nearly seven years after the tsunami devastated the coastlines of Asia.

An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of between 9.1 to 9.3 strikes the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, and triggered a deadly tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Wati was in the village of Ujong Baroh when flood waters came crashing in.

"Her mother, Yusniar, was trying to take her and her two siblings to a safe place, but somehow she lost her grip on her mother's arm and was carried away by the rushing waters, leaving her mother powerless to help her," the state news agency said. "Yusniar was able to save her two other children, but she and the rest of the family eventually had to resign themselves to the notion that Wati was lost as she never returned nor had anybody in the neighborhood seen her again dead or alive."

The now teenage Wati was spotted in a coffee shop near her home in West Aceh, Indonesia.

She said that "she had come [there] by bus from Banda Aceh and was trying to find her way back home but did not know how. She also could not remember any of her parents' or relatives' names except Ibrahim," according to Antara.

She was sitting in silence in the coffee shop, assumed to be a beggar, the news agency reported.

Later that day, Wati and someone she met showed up at a man's house.

His name? Ibrahim.

"After listening to the acquaintances account, Ibrahim immediately sensed the girl could be his long-lost grandchild and, after a closer look at the dark-skinned girl, was indeed convinced she was Wati who went missing in the tsunami seven years ago," the news agency reported.

Ibrahim called her parents to immediately come meet her, according to the agency, and the parents confirmed it was their daughter because of a small mole and scar that she had as a child.

Antara said they were told no other details about what happened to the girl when she was swept away other than she had been in several areas throughout Indonesia's Aceh province after the tsunami.

soundoff (431 Responses)
  1. schatzi

    First of all, I have no idea what point Marko was trying to make....made no sence to this story at all.....Next, I'm amazed at how unfeeling and unconnected people can be. It's obvious that Heather and Jason are not believers of God or are angry at him for something they think he should have done for them and didn't and are now bitter and trying to spread that bitter virus to anyone that will listen....Well, I for one am choosing to not listen. 🙂 I do choose to believe that God was with her while she was being swept out to sea and during those years she was on her own. She lived didn't she? God doesn't control accidents of nature, but if it is not your time to go, he does protect you till it is. And it obviously wasn't her time to go yet. I'm sure that there is so much more to this young girls story and in time it will come out if it is meant to be. But in the meantime it is a blessing that she survived and is with her family now. Now to Dawn, Why on earth would someone want to make up such a story after 7 yrs have gone by? Your story is what is made up, and I feel sorry that you have that in your heart....It's almost Christmas people! What has happened to love and joy and peace on Earth and the true meaning of Christmas. We have the power in ourselves which God has given us the free will to do by the way, to be better people and kind toward others. I so often lately don't see that anymore...and that is what is very sad and becoming a tragedy. Whether you believe in God or not, we still as humans need to be loving people and not condensending of others on what we don't know the full story of. There is already so much hatered and ill will to others that I choose to love others as God loves us and to try and be a more possitive influence on people and not bring others down when there is so much other things to be concerned about. This should just be looked at as a true blessing that this girl is alive, no matter how or why. God Bless to all of you and Merry christmas and pray for those that just don't get it yet, that they WILL someday, before it is too late to make that change....Enjoy your family and loved ones this holy season and think possitive thoughts. :>)

    December 23, 2011 at 4:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Happy Christmas

      I agree schatzi. Sounds to me like some people have a major chip on their shoulder. Get over it, or you'll end up filling your whole life with bitterness. Change your outlook and you'll change the world.

      December 23, 2011 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |
    • coder

      which god are you referencing?

      December 23, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • CmonNow11

      "Girl thought to be swept away during tsunami found alive"

      CNN, is there any kind of proof reading of your articles?? The girl wasnt "thought to be swept away" – she WAS swept away according to the very first sentence of the story.

      December 23, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • JDKate

      Did we read the same article?? I agree that the article was poorly written , but to use this as a launching pad for remarks about one's religion (and attacks against others) also seems odd. Savitri is correct - the then-little girl suffered an unimaginable trauma which most likely caused shock. To survive, she had to subdue memories. But thankfully, instinct guided her back to her home town and she was reunited with her family. Let's all be thankful that she survived and was cared for during those years and now is back home with family.

      January 9, 2012 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
    • SpellCheck

      It's sense. Learn to spell!

      January 20, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. FaykeKname

    This story sure brought out the Jesus freaks.

    December 23, 2011 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      If only there was a 'like' button 🙂

      December 23, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. john

    People who think that the creator of the entire universe needs them to stick up for him in every discussion, don't realize how big the universe really is I think.

    December 23, 2011 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • SD

      No, He doesn't need anyone to stick up for Him, but as a believer, we WANT to because people distort who and what He is...

      January 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Savitri

    I am Indonesian and while I have a first, middle and last name most if not all villagers only have a first name. Actually my last name didn't come about, officially at least, until I was 5, when I got my passport. There's no last name on my birth cert and my mom only had a first name until she married my dad. How one differentiate person 1 and person 2, for example, is based on where she lives and who her parents/grandparents are. So if you were looking for me, you'd want to ask for a Savitri who lives in so and so village and related to this and that. the more you know about this person the better chance you'll have at finding her – you might have to patiently wait while the folks you're asking argue about which Savitri you're looking for and where exactly I live (villagers don't know about official mailing address).

    I am Chinese-Indonesian so I used the second uncle, first uncle, auntie one from mom's side etc. there's no name used and it's normal. Indonesians have something similar. While city kids are more educated in this matter, village kids only know 'mom' 'dad' and grandpa Ibrahim. The thing is, grandpa Ibrahim can be a blood related or just an old person. It's very rude to call somebody, especially those older by his/her name. One can not know the person's name because calling somebody aunt/ uncle/grandpa is sufficient.

    So, in the case of Wati, she could have gotten partial loss in memory, was in shock, or she simply called everybody mom, dad, big sis/bro, uncle, aunt and grandpa/ma. But it is not uncommon for a child her age to not know her parents' or relatives' names. My family had live in maids, 16yrs old girls (just normal for them to be sent to work away from home), with 4th/6th grade education and my parents would be lucky if they can get some family or address info.

    I have an almost 8yrs old. She knows our names and address, considerably intelligent, but if a Tsunami hit and all is flat, it'd be a miracle if she can find her way back home even from a mile away.

    Very glad Wati was reunited with her family!

    December 23, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      Great explanation Savitri, which puts the whole thing in context. Thank you!

      December 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rodrigo Abuchacra

      Dude thanks for detailed info concerning this poor girl... Cheers, from Brazil

      December 23, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • gilberto

      i think that your detailed explanation is necessaire for better understand these news.

      December 24, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rechael

      Thank you so much for your explanation, Savitri. It is amazing how blinding it can be for some who have only known American/Western society and privelege.

      What a blessing for Wati and her family. This story leaves me so grateful to have my children safely with us.

      December 26, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nikki

      Excellent explanation! Thank you!

      December 27, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Black Swan

      Thanks for the additional info and context that the journalist failed to provide. Your comment really helps put the story in context.

      December 29, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank Burch Brown

      It is such a relief–and so helpful–to receive an informed comment. This explanation shows just how much people (everywhere) need to listen and learn before making judgments, especially across cultural differences. In my view, CNN in its report should have taken the trouble to find out a little more about this very kind of thing before issuing a very confused and confusing news report.

      January 8, 2012 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Justified

      If only there was a "like" button....Thank you for the detailed explanation.
      One happy ending last.

      January 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Amanda

      Thanks for the info Savitri! I was wondering why she didn't know anyone. Makes much more sense now, the journalist probably should have included that in the story!

      January 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike

    If only there was ,,,IF ONLY!!

    December 23, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. giat

    Wow, thats unbelievable, amazing, thanks to God, i'm indonesian .. wish Wati reunite to her family,

    December 23, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Judy Ren

    This is the most amazing Christmas present for Wati's family. Peace and harmony for all over the world.

    December 24, 2011 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Yeah, except they probably don't subscribe to your christian beliefs, idiot.

      January 18, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dave

    God is in control of the dead AND the living, (dead as in no longer on this rock circling a sun/star)
    Though we will never understand why certain things happen to some people, we all suffer in some way for a short time compared to eternity. One thing is for certain Children go to Heaven. =-) If this little girl was brought back to her parents it was for the parents.

    December 27, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Aneuk Acheh

    Allahu Akbar...

    December 30, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  10. Christi

    An excellent explanation, Savitri. It's so easy to get caught up in our Western ways of doing things and forget that things may be different in other cultures. May this be a wonderful year for Wati and her family!

    January 9, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
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