BANDA ACEH, Indonesia — A girl who was swept away in the Indian Ocean tsunami seven years ago said Friday she broke down in tears this week after tracking down her parents, who had long lost hope of finding her alive.
The 15-year-old showed up in Aceh province's hard-hit town of Meulaboh, saying that not long after the wave hit she was "adopted" by a woman who called her Wati and forced her to beg, sometimes beating her and keeping her in the streets until 1 a.m.
When the teen stopped bringing in money, she was told, "Go ahead, leave … go find your parents then, they're in Meulaboh."
With patchy memories about her past — she was 8 when the tsunami hit, an age where most children don't know their relatives' full names — Wati began her search, telling people she thought her grandfather was "Ibrahim."
She met a pedicab driver in Meulaboh, who brought her to a man by that name. Though she didn't look familiar, he, in turn, quickly summoned her parents.
"When I saw my mother, I knew it was her," said the wide-eyed girl, her hair cropped close to her head. "I just knew."
The family, who say the girl's original name is Meri Yuranda, is also now convinced.
Yusniar binti Ibrahim Nur, the 35-year-old mother, told the Associated Press she had all the evidence she needed. "She has her father's face," the mother said.
The Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami killed 230,000 people in a dozen nations.