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. Justin

    This has got to be the BEST gift a mother could receive! I can only imagine the joy in that family at this time...snide comments and jokes aside, these are the stories that remind us why we are human. So happy for that family!

    December 22, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. luvlar

    Great story. I have to wonder though, how is it an 8 year old can't remember her parents names? Curious.

    December 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • cWhatsNew

      If you were to be traumatized like that...

      December 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Poolchick

      Probably because at the age of 8, you only know them as Mom and Dad. Not to mention the shock from what happend to her.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • sleestak

      Because when you're 8 your parents' names are "Mom" and "Dad" (or the Indonesian equivalent, in this case). I'm pretty sure my son didn't know my name when he was 8.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • ItsDifferent

      It's because to her their names are Moomy and Daddy. Unlike the Western culture, people don't refer to others using their given names. Instead, their occupation or family relationship is used instead. It is possible that names are rarely ever mentioned. To an 8 year old in this environment, it is possible that she would go months without hearing or using her parents names during which memory could fade. I'm sure this is unimaginable in the American culture where you call everyone by their given names. In other culutures, names do not carry as much significance.

      December 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bongiojf

      Interesting about the names. Only recently has Indonesia started using family names. I know of several people from Indonesia with only first names. IMHO It is completely believable that an eight year old only knew her parents as Mommy and Daddy, especially in a culture that doesn't have the same regimented naming structure as ours

      December 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    I am so very happy for the young lady and her family. I can only imagine the relief and joy if this was my daughter who was thought to be forever gone. A happy story.

    December 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jack

    this story made me cry with joy. i can only imagine the pain and heartache when they thought she had died and now to find her alive and well is one of the most wonderful things i have heard this year. i am very happy for them all.

    December 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cWhatsNew

    Heart warming!!! Nice story for the holidays. Any mother who lost her child would NEVER stop looking into the crowds and envisioning the child would just emerge. It's a miracle that this time it becomes true for her. Oh my God. I'm an agnostic, but this time, THANKS God!

    December 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Manish

      Thanks God and May all missing kids meet their parents

      December 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Shawn

    Now this is news!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Poolchick

    What an awesome ending to a tragic story. So happy for them. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 🙂

    December 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Kwkrunch

    Awesome story!

    December 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. zoundsman

    I needed this kind of story to start my day. Now ... to scan the umpteen miseries of the world ...

    December 22, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joe

    Great ending. But is Ibrahim doing having young girls coming to his house??

    December 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Carolyn H

    I hope we get to hear more details about this story. Where was this little girl all this time? How is it that an 8 year old doesn't know the names of her parents or her brothers but remembers her grandfather;s name?

    December 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Johnny Come Lately

    Strange. My 4-year old knows my first and last name. (and his mom's)

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

      Well what a little Einstein you have!

      December 22, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ThinkTank2012

    Please publish more of such uplifting, hope-filled news. It uplifts our spirits...
    What a gift to that Indonesian family!

    December 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. babalou

    The story actually made me smile! Instead of wanting to post a goofy remark. Thanks for a happy story, but where was she all this time. Whos writting the book?

    December 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Greg

    One of the best stories I have heard all year. Make you feel good when a family can find eachother after such a devistation event. One thing bothers me. Why did it take so long? Why did people that just saw this young girl wondering over the years not do anything? What happened to their government? I would think a little girl of that age was not able to take good care of herself. Don't people there pay any attention to children?

    December 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
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