The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that struck Indonesia was one of the biggest natural disasters in history. On December 26th, 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 died in the tsunami, and thousands of others went missing.
The epicenter of the earthquake was the province of Aceh, 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, 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, 4, and Arif Pratama Rangkuti, 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, the parents desperately searched for their children—but there was no sign of them anywhere.
They continued to look, but as time went on, the tragic resignation set in.
Their children were just two of the thousands of casualties of the tsunami.
A decade passed. The parents 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 sister—and 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—and was shocked when he heard her story.
He learned the girl was swept to a neighboring 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 his sister—and the family finally made an unlikely, tearful reunion.
Jamalia couldn’t hold back her emotions when she finally saw her daughter again.
“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.”
“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. A decade after a devastating tragedy, hope had finally returned!