The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that struck Indonesia was one of the biggest natural disasters in history. That year on Dec. 26, one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded triggered devastating tsunamis across Asia, destroying communities and claiming unprecedented casualties in its wake.
At least 230,000 people across 14 countries died in the tsunami, and thousands of others went missing.
The epicenter of the earthquake was the province of Aceh, Indonesia, which was hit the worst with 170,000 casualties.
Many families were caught in the chaos, including a woman named Jamaliah, her husband, Septi Rangkuti, and their two young children. When the tsunami suddenly struck their home in West Aceh District on Dec. 26, 2004, they couldn’t outrun the waves and were swept into the water—and had to improvise to survive.
The father grabbed a wooden board that was floating by, along with his two children, Raudhatul Jannah, then 4, and Arif Pratama Rangkuti, then 7. They all held on for dear life.
But as the tsunami waves ravaged on, the family became separated. The two children were suddenly out of their parents’ sight.
As the tsunami later subsided, Jamaliah and Septi desperately searched for their children—but there was no sign of them anywhere.
The parents continued to look, but as time went on, the tragic resignation set in. They believed their children were just two of the thousands of casualties of the tsunami.
A decade passed. Jamaliah and Septi accepted their fate and tried to move on. They never expected a miracle.
One day in 2014, Jamaliah’s brother spotted a girl on the street walking home from school—and there was something familiar about her.
She had striking features and bore a strong resemblance to his long-lost niece. She also seemed to be about 14, the age Raudhatul would now be.
It seemed impossible—but he couldn’t ignore the similarities. So he inquired about the girl.
Jamaliah’s brother learned the girl was swept to the neighboring Banyak Island in the tsunami 10 years ago. A fisherman rescued her and brought her to his mother, who has raised her ever since—80 miles away from where she was separated from her family.
The uncle was stunned. It defied all odds, but it was really true. It was Raudhatul.
He told Jamaliah—and the family finally made an unlikely, tearful reunion in June 2014, 10 years after the deadliest natural disaster.
An Indonesian girl swept away in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami has been reunited with her parents 10 years later. Her mother said “this is a miracle from God.”
Jamaliah couldn’t hold back her emotions when she finally saw the girl.
“My heart beat so fast when I saw her,” she told AFP. “I hugged her and she hugged me back and felt so comfortable in my arms.”
The mom knew the girl was her long-lost daughter the moment she set eyes on her. “If anyone is in doubt, I’m ready for DNA tests,” she said, according to news.com.au.
Jamaliah called it “a miracle from God.”
“My husband and I are very happy,” she added. “I am so grateful to God for reuniting us with our child after 10 years of being separated.”
The family says they will continue to have a close relationship with the foster parents who saved Raudhatul.
It was a life-changing discovery for the parents, who not only had their daughter back but had renewed hope they might find their son as well. Raudhatul informed them that he made it to the same island that she did.
Sure enough, the media attention the family received made it possible to reunite with Arif as well. It turned out their long-lost son had been living as a street orphan for years, sleeping in outdoor markets and abandoned shops.
A decade after a devastating tragedy, hope had finally returned.
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