In the midst of a lot of negative news in the media comes a wonderful story of two siblings, thought to be dead, reunited with their family 10 years after the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia that killed about 275,000 people. One sibling was found alive about three weeks ago, as this August 8th Washington Post article describes:
She had been holding onto her parents as they floated on a plank of wood when the tsunami hit her home, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur International. But Raudhatul and her then 7-year-old brother, Arif Pratama Rangkuti, slipped from their father’s grasp. The family never saw the two children again until Wednesday when Raudhatul, now 14, was reunited with her family.
“My heart beat so fast when I saw her. I hugged her, and she hugged me back and felt so comfortable in my arms,” said Jamaliah Jannah, Raudhatul’s mother, in an interview with Agence France-Presse.
Young Raudhatul had been swept onto a remote island, when she was found by a fisherman who returned her to the mainland. For the next 10 years, that fisherman’s mother raised her by the name of Wenni, according to AFP.
Then one day in June, Raudhatul’s uncle saw a young girl who looked like his missing niece. He asked around and learned that she had been found on Banyak Island after the tsunami.
“My husband and I are very happy we have found her,” her mother told DPA. “This is a miracle from God.”
The couple’s other missing child would be about 17 years old now, and they believe that, like his sister, he may still be alive.
“We will look for him on Banyak Island because we believe he is still alive,” Jamaliah Jannah said according to DPA.
If he did live, Raudhatul’s older brother would be among the luckiest. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 275,000 people according to the U.S. Geological Survey, making it the deadliest tsunami since the Renaissance Age.
A family ripped apart by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami was reunited Monday for the first time in a decade, thanks to a chance encounter in June which led them to their missing daughter, who, in turn, helped the family find their missing son.
Arif Pratama Rangkuti and his younger sister, Raudhatul Jannah, were swept from their parents’ arms on Dec. 26, 2004, in the massive Indian Ocean Tsunami, which killed more than 230,000 people across Southeast Asia.
Arif, just 7 at the time, and Jannah, 4, were separated from their parents, Septi Rangkuti and his wife, Jamaliah, who told Deutsche Presse-Agentur they searched for their children for a month before giving up hope.
Yet hope came again in June of this year, when an uncle saw a girl who looked similar to Jannah in a nearby village. Further inquiry revealed the girl, who had been rescued by a fisherman after the tsunami and had lived with his mother ever since, was indeed the lost daughter. What’s more, the girl — now 14 years old — said Arif was likely alive, as the two had been briefly stranded together on a nearby island…
Jannah’s emotional reunion with the family unleashed a large amount of media attention, which the family says led to the discovery of their son, who Voice of America reports had been living as a street orphan in Payakumbuh, an Indonesian province some 560 miles away from the family home in Aceh.
The entire family, together again:
Septi Rangkuti (2nd L) holds one of his sons, Jumadi Rangkuti, next to his wife, Jamaliah (top R), and daughter, Raudhatul Jannah (L), after being reunited with his missing son, Arif Pratama Rangkuti (lower R), in Payakumbuh town on Sumatra island on Aug. 19, 2014.
According to Agence France-Press, a couple in Payakumbuh contacted the family after seeing a photo of Arif as a young boy on the news, believing a homeless teenager they let sleep in their internet cafe bore a strong resemblance to him.
When the cafe owner showed the boy, known only as “Ucok,” a picture of Jamaliah, reports the Bangkok Post, he exclaimed, “That’s mother!” He was unable to recall her full name, but did remember the woman went by “Liah.”
In a subsequent phone conversation with his parents, the Post adds, Arif asked when they could come pick him up, which they did earlier this week.
It’s unclear how Arif and his sister became separated after their initial rescue by the fisherman. According to the AFP, it’s believed the fisherman didn’t have the resources to provide for two more children and decided to keep Jannah.
I remember well the day all this unfolded in 2004. I was living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at the time with three other guys on the 12th floor of a high rise apartment. We felt the earthquake and went outside until given the all-clear to go back inside. Kuala Lumpur was too far inland to be in danger of a tsunami, but 68 Malaysians died in the northwest part of the country due to the tsunami. That’s a large number, but it’s only about 2/100 of 1% of the total number of victims claimed by that tragedy. The story above is a welcome bright spot in the midst of all the loss.
My friend, Rick, was living in Malaysia at the time and is still there. He visited Aceh, Indonesia shortly after the earthquake and tsunami took place, and went back again recently. Here are some “before and after” pictures he shared on Facebook: