A 15-year-old Indonesian girl, who was finally reunited with her family after being swept away in the 2004 tsunami, said that for the last seven years, a woman who “adopted” her would not let her return to her family, instead forcing her to beg for money.
“All those years I was with my adopted mother. She did not let me come here. She forced me to make money,” the girl said, according to The Associated Press.
The girl, named Wati by her adoptive mother, was 8 years old when the tsunami hit in 2004. She was clinging to her family members when a wave hit and washed her away. Her family presumed she was dead.
“She made me a beggar. If I didn’t make money, she hit me,” the girl said, according to the AP.
When the girl stopped bringing in money, her adoptive mother told her to leave and find her parents in Meulaboh, Indonesia.
“She came alone. She came to a mall, people asked her where she was from, she answered she was from Banda Aceh. She told people she was looking for her mother. She told people her mother’s name is Yus and her father’s name is also Yus. People thought she was just some crazy girl,” said Yusniar Binti Ibrahim, who believes she is Wati’s mother, according to the AP.
“Thank God there was a pedicab driver asked her where she wanted to go,” Ibrahim said. “She told him she was looking for her mother in Meulaboh, and she was brought by the driver to the house of the village chief. She was asked what she wanted, she told them she was looking for, her mother named Yus. Then the village people called my husband.”
Wati’s parents were able to confirm her identify by distinguishing features: a small mole and a scar she got above her eyebrow when she was 6 years old.
What happened to Wati and where she has been in the years since she was swept away was not immediately disclosed to press, but for her family, Wati’s return was sure to have been a long awaited happy ending to seven years of grief.
The deadly 2004 tsunami, triggered by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean, killed more than 150,000 people in Southeast and South Asia.
ABC News’ Karson Yiu and The Associated Press contributed to this report.