Indonesian tsunami girl 'reunited with family'

Meri Yulanda with her father
Image caption Meri Yulanda was separated from her family when the Boxing Day tsunami struck

An Indonesian girl swept away in the 2004 tsunami has been reunited with her parents seven years on, the family say.

Meri Yulanda, also known as Wati, turned up at a cafe in Meulaboh, Aceh, earlier this week, looking for her parents.

She says she was found by a widow after the disaster and forced to work as a beggar, being freed only last week.

Indonesia's northern province of Aceh was the worst hit by the Boxing Day tsunami, which killed 230,000 people.

Tens of thousands of bodies were never recovered and many families never found out what happened to their loved ones.

There has been no independent verification of Meri's story.

'Just knew'

Meri, who is aged 14 or 15 according to different reports, returned to her hometown remembering only the name of her grandfather, Ibrahim.

Someone at the cafe knew a man by that name and got in touch.

"When I saw my mother, I knew it was her. I just knew it," she said.

"When she saw her mother she yelled 'mama' and ran toward her," her father, Tarmius, told AFP by telephone.

"Both of them hugged each other and cried," he said, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Her mother, who had given up hope of seeing Meri again, said she had not immediately recognised her daughter.

"The birthmarks on her belly, and a mole and scar on her face proved that the little girl was mine," her mother, Yusnidar, told AFP.

The 35-year-old added: "I cannot tell you how grateful I am."

Meri and her sister were separated from their parents when the Asian tsunami struck the village of Ujong Baroh on the Aceh coast.

After the disaster, Yusnidar and Tarmius travelled to different districts to search for their lost daughters but could not find them. Their eldest daughter is still missing.

About 168,000 people were killed in Aceh province alone in the tsunami.

Many families continue to hold out hope for finding their loved ones, but reunions are rare. Many of those announced in recent years have turned out to be untrue.

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