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. neepsandtats

    Hooray for some positive, uplifting news. Amazing.

    December 22, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dmx01

    Boring... I could have come up with a better story. Girl torn from her mother's arms during a tsunami is raised by sharks and returns 7 years later to terrorize her village. Meanwhile a young Mormon missionary from Salt Lake City who is on a mission to bring light to the poor village is having trouble reaching out to the scared and decimated village and decides to help them with 'devil shark' problem to showcase the power of faith. Armed with only prayers he stands knee-deep in restless sea, ready to face the terrible enemy, and after a long, exhausting battle drags the beast onto the shore, to be recognized by the villagers as the long-lost villager girl. Villagers, awed by the mystic powers of the Mormon missionary kill him and build a shrine around his body, hoping that 'Jesus', whose power mysterious cleric channeled would give his benediction to them.

    December 22, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Uhhhh

      Awesome short story! Creative writing has never been my thing, but I know a good one when I see one! 😉

      December 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • cs

      Thank you so much for making my night!

      December 22, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dawn Diego

      I am not an outstanding individual in the intellect department, but I'd say I'm average... I remember vividly being eight years old myself. I can tell you with 100% certainty that I would've been able to tell you my name, my parents' names, my address, phone number, parents' occupations, etc even at the age of 7, and even at 6, I bet I could've related enough information to get me home. Now remember, I said I am not an outstanding individual in the intellect department, but even I can see that this is a big made-up lie! Shame on CNN....what are they just testing us to see how much they can get past our BS meters???

      December 23, 2011 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Aeroman

      @Dawn Diego,

      When you were 8 years old, did you get swept away by a massive tsunami?? Yeah, I didn't think so. This girl likely suffered from PTSD. She was very likely traumatized from the incident leading her to forget details that were once almost instinctive. She was very young at the time. So before you go and start ranting like an idiot, think things through a bit more. Your sentence about not being "an outstanding individual in the intellenct department" is spot on, though.

      December 23, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
    • steve

      i'll wait until the movie comes out

      December 23, 2011 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Kyle H. Davis

      I thought you said you could come up with a better story... I guess we will have to wait to find out. Unless that hatchet job on the old St. George legend was your attempt.

      December 23, 2011 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Justmyco2011

      @ Dawn Diego – I think that you are trying to be very modest. Actually you don't have a average intellectual capabilities, you are a retard, an oligophrene to be very modest on my part. But in reality, it might be worse. Just to start your therapy, just let me ask a few question – where do you live in US or Indonesia? Do you know of any differences in infrastructure between these two Countries? Do you know how people travel in Indonesia, buses, trains, etc? Are you literate? Did you go to school? Can you imagine the profession of this girl's father/mother? Do you know what happens to adults when they are in deepest stress, on the verge of dieing? What happens when a child gets into such a situation? Any chance you can define "amnesia" without looking into wikipedia? What does PTDS stand for?

      December 23, 2011 at 3:53 am | Report abuse |
    • vahjayjayaddict

      one of the better mormon/shark/mystic shrine stories i've heard lately. next time can you send the villagers to salt lake and convert them to animism? thanks

      December 23, 2011 at 3:54 am | Report abuse |
    • isozu

      bite your tongue

      December 23, 2011 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
  3. heather

    That little girl just spent 7 years telling herself not to forget and promising herself she would get home when she was old enough and she just did it. God didn't save her, she saved herself. I am done praying. Wishing people well has no effect on their reality. Unless you have put your own hand in to help, you have done nothing.

    December 22, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. nummie

    Amazing how everything gets turned into political or religious stupidity.

    December 22, 2011 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Uhhhh

    di-ann wrote: "Have you ever been in a Tsunami and swept from your mothers arms at 8? I thought not? The Country was a mess with no infrastructure. It's a third world country at best. I bet there are a lot
    more stories like this."

    December 22, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Uhhhh

      @di-ann: while your kind intention is nice, your condescension is a little off-putting. For some reason people love to cling to outdated cold-war era terms like "third world" when they don't really know what the term originally meant, and probably think everywhere outside the "west" is the third world. While Indonesia is not at the "developed" stage yet, it is still a developing one with a fast growing economy and is classified as a lower-middle-income country. It also happens to be the largest economy in Southeast Asia (much bigger than Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, etc. especially due to the sheer size of its population). They are by no means a third-world basket-case country like what the term implies (you're probably thinking of places like Somalia). Also, infrastructure means things like roads, highways, electricity, phones, etc. Just so you know, those things definitely exist in Indonesia (with 240 million people, Indonesia is one of the biggest cell/smart phone markets in the world...just ask Blackberry). And, even in this part of the relatively remote Aceh province (which is pretty much backwater compared to the more developed areas of Indonesia like the island of Java where their largest cities like Jakarta are located), infrastructure was pretty well developed even before the tsunami. Just look at the after-tsunami photos - what exactly would a tsunami destroy if there was no infrastructure? In addition, Indonesia is a huge country (almost as large as the continental US). The tsunami only touched its far western tip. 99% of the country was not affected at all (not an exact number, but just trying to make a point here). It's like foreigners assuming Hurricane Katrina destroyed the entire US. I'm not trying to sound like some pretentious politically correct d.o.u.c.h.e bag here...but it's not PC, it's just fact. I'm guessing you've never been to Indonesia, but even if you have and still think it's just some third-world hole, you have to admit what you wrote sounded really exaggerated?

      Anyway, my point is this (I know, finally! right?)...I'm guessing the girl went missing for years simply because of memory/trauma issues. That, combined with the sheer devastation that the Aceh province experienced...so many homeless people trying to put their lives back together, so many missing people, etc...she was just a needle in a haystack. She obviously was rescued by someone or some organization, but she never had the ability to put her memory and courage back together until she reached her teen years.

      December 22, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. shailynn

    They should make that a movie or something because thats a very powerful thing that has happened, im happy for this girl and hope she knows that God was watching her

    December 22, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      Apparently he was "watching" her get swept away as well............

      December 23, 2011 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. suzy.q

    I actually liked the shark story.
    Oh, and the article IS boring–unimaginative writing for an amazing story. Pity. The girl deserves better.

    December 22, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ruth A Farella

    I feel sorry for the 15 years old. When she is little girl, she very hard to remember it. I am happy she is alive and the best of healthy girl. Good Luck in the Future! Take care. ILY = I Love You. "Smile".

    December 22, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Hayley

    Did she have amnesia? Why couldn't she remember her parent's names? 8 isn't that young. I knew my parents names... and who took care of her? Was she just on her own? More details!

    December 22, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • tnt

      Hayley,
      In a normal state, 5 years old can tell you his/her parents' names. But after a life-and-dead experience like that, please put yourself in her situation before showing the world how smart you think you are.

      December 23, 2011 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. DP

    Awesome – a happy, uplifting story indeed!

    December 22, 2011 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  11. rachael

    This is a very happy ending story. I'm glad she found her family and this doesn't happen all the time.

    December 23, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  12. John 3:16

    In the last days, the love of most will wax cold. There are so many cold comments on these websites that it's just ridiculous. Unless you have been through a traumatic event (like a tsunami), please don't say what you would or would not remember. I'm just happy to know that she was finally reunited with her family. Great news story.

    December 23, 2011 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  13. rooney

    Great story, very inspiring! I'm also curious as to what happened during the years she was missing. Oh well, the important thing is she found her family in the end.

    December 23, 2011 at 3:03 am | Report abuse |
  14. kakkaka

    You guys are all small minded...Typical... How can you say the story is boring and u can come up with better.. Shame on you all....

    December 23, 2011 at 3:27 am | Report abuse |
  15. marko

    Why cant CNN talk about the PUNKS in Aceh that were rounded up by the police last week because they were un islamic? its been on ever news ch excpet CNN?? !!%%
    I call this Kidnapping because they havent been charged with anything and are still in jail! Crime = zero!

    December 23, 2011 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
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