x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Tsunami children

A girl missing since the 2004 tsunami is a poignant reminder of that devastating loss.

The seventh anniversary yesterday of the devastating South Asia tsunami was a reminder of one of the worst natural disasters of modern times. More than 230,000 were killed, mostly in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The devastation in cities like Banda Aceh, on the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, was so severe that rebuilding efforts lasted for years.

As survivors took stock after the tragedy, many parents searched for lost children and, in some cases, there were extraordinary stories of survival: the Indonesian boy who survived in the open sea for days, clinging to an uprooted palm tree; the Sri Lankan girl reunited with her father after a month-long search.

After seven years, most would expect that such stories would have run their course. Last week, however, a 15-year-old girl known only as Wati appeared in the town of Meulaboh in Aceh province - and was immediately recognised as Meri Yunanda, the daughter of a couple who had long given up hope for their lost daughter. Meri had spent seven years forced to beg in the streets by a woman who had "adopted" her.

Soon after the disaster, there were warnings that child-trafficking rings might take advantage of the chaos to prey on the weak. Even years after the tsunami, parents continued to search for lost children. For many, there will be no closure, but we hope that a new chapter has already begun for Meri and her parents.