December 26, 2005

A year later, Indonesian tsunami survivors cling to hope

By Tomi Soetjipto

ULEE LHEUE, Indonesia (Reuters) - Yasrati's 13-year-old
daughter and 5-year-old son have been missing since the tsunami
swept across her village in the Indonesian province of Aceh,
yet she clings to the hope they somehow survived.

As mourners across the world gathered along ravaged Indian
Ocean coastlines on Monday to remember some 230,000 people dead
or missing in the tsunami, Yasrati, 38, placed an advertisement
in a local paper in search of her missing children.

"In my heart, I still believe they are alive. They are
still somewhere, I don't know where but I can still feel it,"
said Yasrati, one of nearly a dozen people who put photographs
of their smiling children in the newspaper.

"This is my instinct as a mother."

Yasrati will continue to believe that "until I find their

Her's was one of at least a dozen advertisements from
parents seeking information on children missing in the tsunami.

Hope has given Yasrati and many others the courage to keep
on going in Aceh since the killer waves churned across their
communities and turned lives upside down.

Some sobbed openly, others fought back the tears, as they
remembered loved ones at a seaside ceremony in Ulee Lheue on
the outskirts of Banda Aceh, capital of the province that lies
on the tip of northern Sumatra.

"I am sad, but we have to keep on living and doing things,"
said Marnawati, a 39-year-old woman in a yellow Muslim head
scarf who lost her husband and 5-year-old daughter.

"No matter how much you cry, the dead ones cannot return,"
she said, holding a 3-year-old son in a sling at a ceremony to
mark the first anniversary of the unprecedented tsunami.

In Ulee Lheue on Monday morning, Indonesian President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono tested a warning system designed to
limit casualties from future tsunamis.

Later he visited a mass grave in the town of Lhok Nga to
pray for unidentified victims of the tsunami that obliterated
entire villages.

"Mr president's visit this time in Lhok Nga has made our
heart proud and lifted our spirit," said Muhammad Jaelani, 40,
who lost three of his family members.

Jaelani was one of about 100 Lhok Nga residents who had
lunch with the president on Monday on a red carpet in a tent
across the road from the grave, a vast stretch of grass guarded
by an iron railing.

"Hopefully SBY can see our condition and make the
rebuilding houses process for tsunami victims faster because
many of us who survived are still living in barracks and
tents," Jaelani said, referring to the president's initials.