[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Friday, 14 January 2005, 11:21 GMT
Aceh man loses 300 relatives
By Steven Shukor
BBC News

Where the family home of Yahdi Istens once proudly stood in Indonesia's Aceh province, all that remains today is a mass of rubble.

Yahdi Istens and wife Linda North
Mr Istens and Ms North were in Jakarta when the tsunami hit

The houses of his parents, brothers and sisters, uncles and cousins have also been destroyed by the tsunami which flattened the village of Lamjabat, near Banda Aceh, in minutes.

Three hundred members of Mr Istens' family were killed in an instant.

"They are all blood relatives," explained his British-born wife, Linda North, a relief worker for International Medical Corps (IMC), operating from Banda Aceh.

One of them was seven months pregnant. Another had just given birth three months ago. Their husbands are also dead
Linda North

"It is not unusual for villages to be made up of predominantly two or three large families," said Ms North, 45, who was born in London but has been living in Indonesia for several years.

"Yahdi is from a family of nine children," she said. "His father is from a family of 13 children. Yahdi's mother is from a family of nine children."

Among the generation of Mr Istens' parents, most couples would have between six and 10 children, Ms North told the BBC News website.

Remains of Mr Istens house
Ms Istens' house was one of the oldest structures in the village

"Yahdi has lost his mum, his father, an older brother and his wife and their two children, his three sisters. Two of them were married.

"One of them was seven months pregnant. Another had just given birth three months ago. Their husbands are also dead," she said.

'Our neighbours were family'

Before the tsunami, Lamjabat had 3,800 inhabitants. About 145 have survived.

With its large shrimp ponds, small lanes and several large and well-maintained properties, Ms North says Lamjabat was by no means poor.

Every night when we come back from work, we sit down and talk about the people we have lost, past family experiences
Linda North

Families had built up their wealth over decades, investing in land, which was passed down, and building their own houses.

"Everybody was always in and out of everybody's house all the time," said Ms North, who was in Jakarta with her husband when the tsunami hit.

"Our neighbours were uncles and aunts and cousins. It was very community orientated.

"Everybody helped everybody. Of course, you get lots of arguments as well. But it was people's primary support network," she said.

Rebuilding communities

Since the tsunami hit, Ms North has been coordinating IMC's relief work in the region, including mobile medical and trauma assistance, food and clothing distribution and the crucial work of rebuilding communities and their support networks.

She, along with thousands of others in Aceh, has also been coming to terms with the scale of the disaster, and how to cope.

"Every night when we come back from work, we sit down and talk about the people we have lost, past family experiences," she said.

"They even manage to laugh about past situations. They are certainly not blocking it out. They are doing a lot of talking and focussing on rebuilding their lives," she said.

She said religion plays a vital role in their acceptance of death. "For them death is a passage."

"Seeing how they deal with it makes it easier. These people have been part of my life for the last 10 years," she said.

She said few of their relations' bodies have been recovered, and the family's death toll could be higher than the confirmed figure of 300.

But now, as Mr Istens and his family look to the future and rebuild their lives, they are not counting the dead, they are counting the survivors.


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific