6:04 pm - Thursday November 5, 2015

Tsunami anniversary: Rebuilding lives in Aceh

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At first glance, Rina looks like any other 14-year-old Indonesian girl. Shy and cherubic, she’s yet to lose the child-like innocence that comes with the territory of teen-hood.

We meet on a Sunday because she’s busy studying for exams. Her father Mustafa tells me Rina is one of the top students in her school.

“I always tell her to study very hard. She wants to become a doctor,” he said.

“Whatever I do is for her. We only have each other.”

Rina and Mustafa survived the tsunami that devastated so much of Aceh, as well as parts of many other countries. Their story is miraculous.

“It was a Sunday and I was sitting with my family that morning when I felt an extremely strong earthquake,” Rina said.

“After a few minutes, a rickshaw driver came past our house and started shouting: ‘The water is coming in from the ocean to the land! Run!’

“We all started running. I held my mother’s hand but she was caught in the waves and I was separated from her. When I woke up, I was all alone, surrounded by dirty water and dead bodies.”

Rina was only four years old at the time. She was saved by a group of students who handed her over to a family. She said they registered her with British aid agency Save the Children.

She never saw her mother or her older sister again.

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