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Tsunami Refugees in Indonesia Mourn Their Lost Families

Nancy-Amelia Collins

Tens-of-thousands of refugees from Indonesia's tsunami-devastated Aceh region are wandering in search of food, shelter and medicine. Although international aid is beginning to reach the region, for people who have lost their families, homes and way of life, the trauma is likely to live on long after the last aid truck has gone.

Twenty-seven-year-old Ichasan Azmi was eating breakfast with his wife, six-week-old son and his grandmother a week ago at his home in Banda Aceh, when waves up to 10-meters high destroyed his home and entire neighborhood.

Mr. Ichasan says he tried desperately to hold onto his baby, but the waves ripped the child out of his arms, and swept them both out to sea.

Mr. Ichasan clung to a bed he found floating in the sea, and drank from coconuts passing by. Six days later, a search and rescue team saved him.

But when he got back to Banda Aceh, he found his family was dead.

He says he survived his ordeal at sea because of his faith in God, and his hopes that his family had somehow survived.

Now in deep grief and shock, Mr. Ichasan waits at the airport for a flight to the Indonesian capital of Jakarta to get medical attention for his wounds, and find shelter with relatives.

Fifty-year-old Nur Ini lost 35 members of her family, including her five children and all of her grandchildren.

She is inconsolable in her grief. Nur Ini says she had just returned to Banda Aceh from a trip out of town, only to find her children and grandchildren dead. Only her husband, who also was out of town, survives. She feels she has nothing left to live for.

Nur Ini's brother, Mohammed Yusup Ali, lost his seven children and his wife. He is staying in a field in Banda Aceh with his sister and a few surviving relatives. The field is surrounded by rotting corpses.

Mr. Ali says he knows no one can ever bring back his family. Now, he just wants the government, or anyone, to find him a safe place to live, and some food to eat.

In the coming days and weeks, many of the refugees will receive aid and shelter from the massive international relief effort just getting off the ground.

But for the people of this region, the losses they have suffered will live on for years to come.

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