Indonesian girl, Meri Yuranda, reunited with family after tsunami


A woman weeps at Ule Lheu mass grave in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, as she prays for her family five years after they died in the 2004 tsunami. (Fauzan Ijazah/GlobalPost)


Fauzan Ijazah

A girl who was swept away in the Indian Ocean tsunami seven years ago broke down in tears after she tracked down her parents in Aceh, Indonesia, earlier this week and reunited with her family, the Associated Press reported.

The girl, whose name is Meri Yuranda, was 8 years old when her village, Ujong Baroh, was hit by the 2004 tsunami. During the disaster, her mother attempted to take her and her two siblings to a safe location, but Yuranda lost her grip on her mother's arm and was carried away by a wave, The Daily Mail reported.

Yuranda, who has very little memory of her past, explained that after the wave hit her, she was "adopted" by a woman who called her Wati. The girl was forced to beg, was sometimes beaten, and often stayed in the streets until 1 a.m.

The girl eventually stopped bringing in money, and the adoptive mother allegedly told Yuranda to leave.

Yuranda returned to the village knowing only the name of her grandfather, Ibrahim, AP reported.

When she returned to Meulaboh, a pedicab driver bought her to a man with the same name. While she didn't look familiar to him, he took her to her parents.

"When I saw my mother, I knew it was her," the girl said. "I just knew."

More from GlobalPost: Lessons from Aceh

The family is also convinced that this is their daughter.

"When I saw the scar over her eye and mole on her hip, I was even more sure," said her mother, Yusniar, the BBC reported.   

Though the girl and her father have different memories of what happened on the day of the tsunami, her mother is not worried.

Yuranda remembers being put into a boat with her younger sister; whereas, her father says that he put his daughters on the roof of their house, hoping it would be safe.

"Maybe she fell into the boat, maybe someone helped her. I don't know," said the mother.

The deadly tsunami, triggered by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean, killed more than 150,000 people in several countries in southern Asia, according to UN estimates, USA Today reported.

Though many families hold out hope that their loved ones will return, reunions are rare. According to the AP, all other family reunions announced in the last five years have turned out to be untrue. Some families have even used DNA tests, which have proved that a child is not theirs.

Nonetheless, many mothers disregard the DNA tests and insist that the new child is their long-lost loved one.