World, Asia - Pacific, Environment

Indonesian tsunami victims recount painful memories

On eve of World Tsunami Awareness Day, victims narrate harrowing stories of being separated from their loved ones

Pizaro Gozali İdrus   | 04.11.2019
Indonesian tsunami victims recount painful memories file photo

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia

As the world observes the Tsunami Awareness Day on Tuesday, relatives of those killed in 2004 disaster in northern Indonesia’s Aceh region, recount painful memories. 

Within seconds, a nine-meter-high wall of water, following a massive earthquake, swept the region, killing 200,000 people.

Maisara, a housewife is still in trauma. She lost her journalist husband and three daughters. "Even though 15 years have passed, the trauma cannot be removed," she told Anadolu Agency.

When the earthquake shook the region, her husband Nur returned home to see their youngest child, who was left in the bedroom. He soon left, to attend to his work. But never returned.

Maisara was dragged 50 meters to the edge of a paddy field and her youngest daughter slipped from her arms.

"I tried to reach her. But her eyes were closed. The whereabouts of two other daughters, remains unknown. I still remember voice of my daughter asking me to escape,” she said.

She also recalls that the rescue operation was very difficult, as soldiers had to fight with piles of wood and reek of corpses.

Maisara now works at Muharram Journalism College, a school established by Aceh Independent Journalists Alliance to honor her husband's struggle.

Suffering from post-traumatic disorder, she has become acrophobic. She has built to exits in her room, to allow her to escape in case of a disaster.

Abdul Hadi Firsawan, 24, has a similar traumatic story to narrate.

At the tender age of 9, he got separated from his parents and two younger siblings. Recalling the traumatic day, Firsawan said, he was watching TV and his mother was in the kitchen.

The raging tsunami washed him away, and after being adrift for hours, he got stranded on a tree and survived. Since then, he is living with his aunt.

"I managed to get out of the trauma, thanks to the support of my relatives," said Hadi.

Although 15 years have passed, Hadi is still trying to find whereabouts of his family.

The hope arose when 45 bodies of tsunami victims were discovered in December 2018 by construction workers. Only five remains could be identified.

Firsawan also writes for national media on issues related to economy, investment and tourism. He said he has accepted the fact that his parents and two younger siblings are dead and is praying for them.

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