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. johnnybgood

    maybe santa found her and flew her to the north pole to explot child labor and brought her back now that the elves formed a union and demanded free health care for life. Perhaps the easter bunny helped too

    December 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • A.


      December 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • smhfarrar

      LMAO!!! Now that was funny! You made my day!

      December 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • LXZ


      December 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. AnnoyedatIgnorance

    I enjoy the fact that the skeptics are trying to compare an 8 year old girl in a third world country to their own child. Their cultural and customs are very different than yours of course this is me making an assumption since your posting on an internet website.

    Where has she been? Who cares…

    The point of story is little girl lost in tragic event, family gave up hope, 7 years later family was reunited with a lost loved one. The rest is mute.

    December 22, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nobody

      Annoyedatignorance, it is MOOT, not mute. Mute is a totally different word than moot. Nice try, though. And yes, ignorance IS annoying....

      December 22, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • johnnybgood

      ignorance is bliss....u continue to believe everything you read on the internet and let me know how that turns out...I bet you voted for change too and really believed it....I guess if obama's birth certificate could disappear and then be found, so could this kid

      December 22, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I don't think it is wrong to question the story and wonder where she has been. However you are right in stating that it is important to understand that their culture is different and that the disaster was of such magnitude that it is very plausible for this to happen.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      @at jonny: psst.. you still working that old fantasy about Obama? Why dont you look inside, fix your own racism and bigotry, and then come out into the real world again? We welcome you when you do.

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

      How does a 8-year old not know their name?

      December 22, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO

      @ Annoyed, you are right. Most of these people have never been outside of the comfortable American burbs. To all of the doubters, get on a plane and fly to a metropolis ANYWHERE in the third world. There ARE kids this young, alone walking the streets, begging – or worse. Now enjoy your comfy Christmas sipping eggnog and watching Danny Kaye on your Blu-Ray, but stop making yourselves look stupid with your thoughtless comments on this story.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Johnny, that is a pretty funny comment from you. How about you? Do you believe everything you read on the internet or just what gets forwarded to your email from other birther nutjobs? Ignorance is bliss and I'm guessing you are one happy fellow.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • socalpimp

      Didn't even know her parents thats education at work there!!! The solution is that we send more money to fund schools.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • di-ann

      It was not just a tragic event. It was an apocalyptic event in a third world country. The Story makes sense to me.

      December 22, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Devin Gray MD

    Heartbreaking. Heartwarming. I hope she can heal now from all the suffering that these years must have been for her, and her family.

    December 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. sortakinda

    For people who don't believe in miracles–could this be one?

    December 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nobody

      Hey! Easy now. Why does this have to be supernatural? Not a miracle but a HAPPY DAY INDEED!!!!

      December 22, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      No, plenty of people that have been presumed dead have shown up at various times throughout history. However if she was on TWA Flight 800 that would have been a miracle.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      No, because then they would have to be thankful to God for something He did other than their own accomplishments.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      No miracle, just luck. Miracles are turning water into wine, raising the dead, you know the rest.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brianna

    People forget that Indonesia is a very different place than the US, and any region after a flood of that size would be absolutely chaotic. At 8, she likely had no identification. In the US, children are often registered with a school or church or reported missing at the police station – what if all the familiar schools and churches are swept away? When the police stations are destroyed, who do you report to? When every landmark for hundreds of miles is destroyed or altered, how do you find your way home?

    I imagine this girl was swept some distance away. When she was found, nothing likely looked the same. She may have been helped by foreign aid who took her even farther away from home for medical attention, food, and shelter. When you're eight and in shock, how do you direct someone who doesn't speak your language to your village, which may no longer exist? How do you get there when the roads are gone? Can you spot it by helicopter when you don't know where you are, what direction you've traveled, and the landmarks are gone? She probably ended up in a large city where one orphan beggar is surrounded by hundreds of the same. Perhaps she was put in a group home and left when she was old enough – again, this is not the US, there is no social services or comprehensive child welfare system, and it took YEARS to rebuild these areas.

    I mean, I know if someone flooded out my region, destroyed the phone system, internet, mail system and television networks in my area, blindfolded me and then took me 100 miles from where I lived, I'd have a hell of a time getting back, and I'm a fully grown adult! Never mind tossing in possible injury, illness, and language difficulties.

    December 22, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      She could have even been swept less than a mile away. Think about it even as an 8 year old growing up in a small town of 5000 I didn't know 100% of my surroundings within a mile on a regular day not to mention how it would look after a tsunami hit it and I am surrounded by dead bodies and debris!

      December 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • johnnybgood

      So the flood carried her 100 miles and she lived with a nice foreign aid worker who then just said good bye and good luck trying to find home 7 yrs later?

      December 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mommatofive

      Very well said!! Just take this at face value - a miracle in and of itself!!

      December 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • jennygirl

      maybe she suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome as well.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Another Dave

      At 8 years old, in Indonesia, she probably had very little reason to ever leave her village in the first place. Of course, she wouldn't know her way home!

      December 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • TaiNMidwest

      I always read comments on CNN. I must say that I am very impressed at your thoughtful explanation. Sometimes, Americans need to view the world with a different lens. Stop assuming that the US is always right. Have a happy holiday and thanks for having a clear mind.

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

      All very plausible except the foreign aid worker part. No humane worker would just let her go off like that without help after years of helping.
      If this story is true, she was more likely taken in by some sort of abuser and she just now escaped.

      December 22, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bill

    Wonderful, fantastic story. Thanks to God.

    December 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark from Canada

      An imaginary God had nothing to do with this. Stop thanking a myth please. Thank reality.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. rubes

    eight years old and you dont remember the names of your parents or other relatives? maybe she was a mute or is that moot?

    December 22, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • ohgram

      ...or maybe she was traumatized by the devastating experience! You seem to be judging all eight year olds to be equal mentality throughout the world without knowing anything else about the person. Not all children of the world have been schooled to learn their vital information.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Notasweirdasyouthink

      Indonesia is not America. Throughout Asia, family members do not address each other by name, but rather by relationship. Anyone under age three is usually just called "baby." Parents are just mom and dad. Remember the old films where Chinese adults are addressed as #1 son, #2 son, etc. That is not a joke. Using the formal name within the family is considered insulting. So, yes, especially if this little girl had not gone to school, she might not have even known her own name.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnPA

      The child probably only ever called her parents "Mommy" and "Daddy" and only heard other people refer to her parents as "Mr and Mrs Lee" (I'm using a Chinese surname as I'm unfamiliar with Indonesia ones)... where Lee is the most common surname (thousands of people in a single town will have it).

      In Asian countries, everyone is named by their relationship to the speaker. For instance I refer to my uncles as "Big Uncle" which means, the oldest Uncle, "second uncle", and "small uncle" and my aunts "Auntie Em" (short for "Emily") "Auntie Lou" (where Lou is short for Lorraine)... not very helpful are there?

      Other random and not terribly useful facts... most Scandinavian lastnames are patronyms... meaning that they are just the person father's name... with "-son" or "-dotter" attached to the end. For instance Lyndon B. Johnson (former president of the United States), or even Scarlet Johans-son. Gillian Anders-son... (instead of Scalett Karstendotter or Gillian Edwardsdotter).

      In Italy, using the town a person was from was often used as a surname... for instance Leonardo Di Vinci just means (that guy Leonardo from the town of Vinci). Similarly, Leonardo Di Caprio.

      Finally, people professions also became their last name... such as Smith, Porter, Schaeffer (German for Shepherd),

      December 22, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO

      In the Philippines, a kid would often hear aunts and uncles calling the parents "Kuya, Dodong, Ate, etc." rather than using the actual names. They would use the relationship instead of the name, even if they were cousins or close friends, so if you are an 8 year old, it is entirely believable that you would never hear your parents actual names spoken. I assume Indonesia would be similar.

      December 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. viking

    Too cool...just in time for Xmas like the tsunami was....

    Hope her & her family have a great celebration....

    December 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • snc735

      she probably doesn't celebrate christmas.

      December 23, 2011 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. Himself

    "Annoyedatignorance", you have chosen your name wisely. Your last paragraph is rife with errors, and in your last sentence one assumes that you mean to write 'The rest is moot.'

    December 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dover

      And YOU can't seem to figure out the 'reply' feature on this site, can you?

      December 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. johnnybgood

    maybe she was taken by the woman who stol casey anthony's child and if we find her, we will find the real killer

    December 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. AnnoyedatIgnorance

    Being ignorant and using flawed English are two different things. Once again you assumed their life style should be just like yours and you assumed English is my primary language.

    You are correct moot it the right word however apparently you understood my meaning but choose to point out my error in technical use where as I pointed out the error in your logic.

    December 22, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bjk

    How sad to read political "junk" with such a wonderful story. To those who find humor in the worthless comments, take a good look at your loved ones today. How wonderful it would be if we could have back a lost loved one if only for one more day!

    December 22, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    Have you ever had a child of your own. Mom, Dad and the whole family gave up on this little precious girl thinking she had died. Family just abandened the 8 years old (2nd or 3 rd grader). Wish the parent would have gone to their national TV or news papers or some form of search to find her, but unfortunate they just gave up for good. Wow this little girl took courage to look for her family, glad she didn't think her whole family was dead for good. Truly Amazing Girl.

    December 22, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Most indonesians dont have TV and many cant even read. Any way there were thousands of people missing after the tsunami. even if they did go to the media the chanses of the right person seeing the report are slim to none.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • dee2118

      Mike, I agree with Tom. They probably had no means to contact the media. And, how do you know they didn't contact some authority. She may not have known her last name and her first name may have been a common one.
      And to reiterate, this country is nothing like ours. I'm sure she was terrified and lost. Her parents didn't "give up on her" but they had to face reality. It's amazing that she lived through the Tsunami.
      We should all be happy for them – and for the doubters, I hope you never find yourself in their position.

      December 22, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. BOMBO

    @ johnnybgood, you are making a fool of yourself. Just move on.

    December 22, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. izzzys bunny are a joke. Has your child been in an equally traumatic event? I hope not for their sake. This child is finally home w/her family, just as your seemingly "perfect" child is home w/theirs. I hope your childs other parent teaches him/her manners & to not be so egotistical, its such an ugly trait.

    December 22, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
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