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. Nicola

    This is a blessing. I'm very happy for this family.

    December 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TheOldOne

    So for several years she found shelter, clothing and food but not her family? Odd.

    December 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • CSMinDC

      Not with the population density.

      December 22, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rmarano

    There are some kids from the suburbs, that if it wasn't for the bus or the parents, couldn't find there way home.

    December 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • PaulTinEG

      May God bless her and her family, any all those who helped this girl.

      December 22, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • gabelson

      Some parents don't know the difference between "there" and "their".

      December 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kris

    Hey Sheila, read it again, she was 8 years old when she was swept away. She has spent almost half of her life away from her family.

    I think about my own grandmother that passed away when I was 8. I saw her at least twice a week and talked to her on the phone every other day. If I weren't reminded of her all the time by pictures and stories from other family members, I could say that I would easily forget her face and even possibly her name (I actually learned her real name AFTER she died.) If this girl had never heard her own parents names often (since most children call them Mom or Dad) it is very possible that their names didn't stick with her.

    As for getting home, she was swept away by a tsunami! She was separated from her parents and experienced a terribly traumatic experience at 8 years old. She could have been in shock, she could have been injured, she could have had other terrible things happen to her that caused her mental damage. The point is you don't know what happened and I don't know what happened, but let's give this girl the benefit of the doubt and let her catch up on the love and family that she has missed out on for half of her life.

    December 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      Just saw that my response took too long to write. Many others already corrected Sheila in the time it took me to read the article, comments and write my reply. Sorry to look like I am adding to the extensive bashing of Sheila.

      December 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Agnim

      Well put was your response! lol
      It is good to keep in mind that US mis-educational system has succeeded in producing a lot of literate fools, in addition to the semi-illiterate ones. lol

      December 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • GJ

      Well said

      December 22, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Eight Is Enough

    You people are real Kardashian Math Wizards. Does she have a big but t?

    December 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. rmarano

    I can't find my car keys ?

    December 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • NTaylorn


      December 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John

    Christmas miracle!

    December 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Greg


    December 22, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. loverspoint

    There are still a bunch years missing. She has been gone for 7 years, was someone taking care of her? What sort of lifestyle was she living? Did she receive any help from the government in trying to trying to track down her parents?

    December 22, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. johnnybgood

    I'm calling bs on this daughter at 8 yrs old would remember her parents names or at least her last name. Assuming she was swept away, with no $ and no clothes except what was on her back and her city a disaster zone, how does she survive and no one notice her for 7 yrs.....

    December 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • GetALife

      You need to crawl out of your little hole and visit a 3rd world country. It is not the same as your little well kept safe neighborhood.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • MMKAY

      If you consider the chaos in this area after the tsunami, I don't doubt this child could get lost. What if she had a head injury or some sort of post traumatic shock that prevented her from being able to communicate well enough to find her way home.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • GJ

      Way to go GetAlife

      December 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Indonesians don't have last names. "Ibrahim" doesn't exactly narrow it down either, considering Indonesia is the worlds most populous Muslim country. Oh, and there's no such thing as an address either. So, the odds were not exactly in her favor.

      January 17, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. TomT

    The best Christmas present of all!!

    December 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Karen


    December 22, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. johnnybgood

    If you believe this, then I have one about a boy who flew away on balloons and made it back to his house unharmed

    December 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • matt

      ...........Try floating away in a tsunami and see how much is left of you or your brain after a while..............

      December 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Phildo

    All of the God debate put aside, this is a pretty awesome story.

    December 22, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. timbo


    December 22, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
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