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Last Updated: Friday, 28 January, 2005, 18:32 GMT
An Aceh man's search for his family
By Steven Shukor
BBC News

More than a month after the tsunami devastated the Indonesian province of Aceh, a survivor who has joined the relief effort tells the BBC News website of his desperate search for his wife and daughter.

Hasan Basri surveying the ruins of his village (photo : WFP/Rein Skullerud)
Mr Basri spent days going from camp to camp

When the tidal waves hit Hasan Basri's village, he not only had to face the ordeal of losing his home, but also of searching for his family.

On the day the waves struck his village of Peukan Banda, near Banda Aceh, he was in Takengon, 200km inland, giving a accountancy lecture to university graduates.

When he arrived in his village the next morning, and saw what was left of his house, he could only fear the worst for his wife Qunuti and 10-year-old daughter Intan. Peukan Banda had been devastated, and there was no-one left to go to for information about his wife and daughter.

"There was nothing left," said Mr Basri, 43. "My house, my car, all gone. I couldn't find any people in my village.

We cried. I thought I had lost them
Hasan Basri
In a neighbouring village, his parents, uncles, aunts and cousins had been swallowed up by the waves. Out of 600 villagers, an estimated 50 survived.

Mr Basri returned to his village and met a local who said he believed his 39-year-old wife and daughter had survived.

For four days he searched, combing the streets, poring over list after list of missing people, visiting camp after camp.

He collected relatives along the way who had lost their homes and immediate relatives - members of his extended family who were so traumatised they followed him, seeking his protection.

On the fourth day, his brother, who had lost his children and wife in the disaster, called him to say he had found Qunuti and Intan in a police camp in Banda Aceh.

Hasan Basri and the remains of his home village (photo : WFP/Rein Skullerud)
Much of his village was destroyed

"When he brought them to me, the feelings were so strong. We cried. I thought I had lost them," said Mr Basri.

Instead of trying to run to escape the waves, Qunuti and Intan had taken refuge in the upper floor of a neighbour's house.

"Those who tried to run, were swept away," said Mr Basri.

The couple decided to send Intan to relatives in Medan, southern Sumatra, where she has since re-started school.


"She is traumatised," said Mr Basri. "There are regular earthquakes in Aceh, the majority are small ones.

"But after the tsunami, Intan would get scared every time she felt a tremor. It is better for her to be away from the disaster area."

After several days at the survivors camps, waiting for food hand-outs, Mr Basri decided to find work helping the relief effort.

He has been enlisted by the UN's World Food Programme, doing odd jobs, carrying out assessments in afflicted zones and putting his accounting expertise to good use.

He has been clearing debris from his office in Banda Aceh, to accommodate relatives and orphans.

"Accommodation is a big problem," he said. "Food is getting through, but there is not enough shelter."

But he said he had no immediate plans to return to Peukan Banda.

"I don't think we are brave enough to go back for the moment."

He said he wanted to focus on helping with the relief effort and restart his accounting business in the short-term.

"Our lives are too caught up by the day-to-day," he said. "We are taking each day as it comes. People have lost so much. I'm just happy to have my family."

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