Girl returns home 7 years after tsunami

Indonesian girl reunited with her family 7 years after she was swept out to sea by the 2004 tsunami; parents say she worked as a beggar all this while

A little girl believed to have been killed in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami is reportedly alive and has been reunited with her parents.

Sweet reunion: Indonesian tsunami survivor Wati lies on a bed while
her mother Yusniar and relatives watch over her. Her parents say a
distinctive mole and scar on her elbow helped in identifying her. Pic/AFP

The girl identified as Wati, now 15, was just eight-years-old when she was separated from her family as a massive wave crashed into their village in Ujong Baroh on the island of Sumatra.

Her mother, Yusniar had been trying to escape the waters to safety with Wati and her two siblings when she lost her grip on the little girl.

Wati then disappeared into the consuming water and was swept away to her apparent death. Yusniar managed to hold onto her other two children and became resigned Wati had perished.

No memory
Her family made several attempts to find her but she was not seen since. But on Wednesday, the girl's grandfather Ibrahim met a friend at his home in the city of Meulaboh. The friend brought along to Ibrahim's house a teenage girl he had found; she had no memory of her family.

She had been discovered sitting alone in a coffee bar but when questioned she said that she had arrived in the city by bus from Banda Aceh and was trying to find her way home. Ibrahim immediately suspected that she could be Wati and contacted Yusniar and her husband who arrived to meet her.

The couple said they recognised the girl as their daughter after seeing a distinctive mole and scar on her elbow from when she was six-years-old. "I cannot tell you how grateful I am," said her mother Yusniar, speaking by phone.

It remains unclear what happened to Wati in the seven years since she disappeared but her parents say she survived this long by working as a beggar and sustaining herself on scraps and leftovers.

The deadly tsunami, triggered by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean, killed more than 1,50,000 people in several countries in southern Asia.

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