Video: Tearful reunion

updated 1/25/2005 8:42:29 AM ET 2005-01-25T13:42:29

Mustafa Kamal searched for his 5-year-old daughter by day and had visions of her at night, certain that somehow she escaped the tsunami that slammed into Sumatra island.

His dream became reality Monday, when Rina Augustina squealed and raced into his arms.

“By the grace of God! I knew you were alive! I knew it!” Kamal screamed at a reunion organized by the aid group Save the Children. “My precious little one. I did not give up. I kept looking.”

“Where were you?” she sobbed, throwing her arms around her father’s neck.

Kamal, a truck driver, was on his way to the city of Medan — a 12-hour drive from this provincial capital — when the tsunami hit Dec. 26. Rina Augustina was home with her mother, her two sisters and her uncle.

Her uncle held her and her 12-year-old sister as they tried to outrun the wall of water. It caught them, and her uncle, Hamdani, lost his grip. Both girls were swept away. Her mother and 8-year-old sister also vanished.

Girl sheltered by another family
Somehow, Rina Augustina survived and made it to a government building where displaced people were gathering. A teenage boy took her to Halimah Junid’s family because it had young daughters, and the family took her in.

Kamal returned home to find nothing left.

Undaunted, he searched camps, government offices — anywhere he might find his wife, three daughters and brother. Eventually, he found his brother and the bodies of his two older daughters. But he kept looking for his wife, Juwairiah, and Rina Augustina.

Such searches have not been ending happily in this shattered city, where tens of thousands of people were swept away, said John Rehnstein of Save the Children. It may take weeks for the dislocation to end and family members to find one another.

Relatives forge on with searches
A local government department has recorded fewer than 10 reunifications since its program began about a week after the tsunami. But that does not stop people from trying.

All over the city, posters of the missing are displayed on street lamps, in settlement areas and at the government’s central information center. The local newspaper, Serambi, has printed photographs of the missing and details on what they were last seen wearing. Radio broadcasters have read names of children living in camps.

UNICEF and Save the Children, mindful of the increased dangers of child trafficking, stopped using pictures and offering too much information on the missing, fearful that criminals might use the details to claim children. Instead, UNICEF and Save the Children issued lists of names, posting them in public places.

“Another family looking for their son told me they saw her name on the board,” Kamal said of his daughter. “It came to me in a dream that she stayed alive.”

With Save the Children representatives watching to make sure all went smoothly, Kamal went to Junid’s home and dropped to his knees at the sight of the little girl in a lime green shirt and plaid pants. The aid workers wept.

“Where’s Mama?” the girl asked. Kamal tried to reassure her and did not tell her about her sisters.

As they left, Rina Augustina waved at Junid and kissed her hand. Kamal cradled Rina Augustina and kissed her cheek. He then led her out into the sunshine.

“Let’s go look for Mama,” he said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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