How tragic tsunami beach rose again

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
By nias

Two years ago, the tiny Indonesian village of Sorake Beach captured the hearts of Star readers after it was devastated by the Boxing Day tsunami. Richard Heath tells how Star readers’ cash has helped transform the settlement.

Jo-Anne Wa'u

Jo-Anne Wa’u

IN the chaotic days after the Boxing Day tsunami, Mama Rio and her four young children posed for a photo in the debris of what she used to call home. The picture came to symbolise the mood of a village, where almost every house had been damaged or destroyed and 76 families had been made homeless.

Several weeks earlier, as the villagers prepared for their Christmas church service on Boxing Day, the water in the beautiful bay of Sorake Beach, in the south-west of Nias island, of Sumatra, began to mysteriously disappear.

By this time thousands of people in south-east Asia had died as a tsunami slammed into coastal towns and villages. Later in the day, the water returned to Sorake Beach as a massive, powerful flood, which damaged or destroyed almost every building, including the house of Jo-Anne Wau, a 27-year-old Sheffield woman who had made the village her home after falling in love with local man, Robin Wau, while travelling.

They will remember Sheffield and where the money came from’ Jo-Anne Wau

This is when the Sorake Beach Appeal began. Jo-Anne, who has since returned to Dronfield with her husband Robin, 24, where they live with their eight-month-old son Kalani, said: “I can’t believe it has nearly been two years since the tsunami. So much has happened since then. I can’t believe how much my life has changed.” In the days after the tsunami, The Star launched the Sorake Beach Appeal – a campaign to re-build the paradise island which, because of its remote location, faced being over-looked by the Indonesian government.

Everyone from pensioners to young children, from huge corporations to small corner shops donated to the appeal, which was praised in Parliament by Prime Minister Tony Blair. The money quickly began to filter through and the houses were rebuilt but on March 28 a giant earthquake sent tsunami-style waves roaring into the village again, destroying almost everything in a few ferocious seconds. Almost £70,000 worth of work undertaken with appeal cash had been washed away and the weary and wary villagers had to begin the re-building process.

Jo-Anne helped co-ordinate the rebuilding process. She said: “People are still very scared of the sea. They still get earthquakes but they are used to that now. It’s a quake at night that they fear because they won’t be able to see the waves.”

Ama (Ina? – Nis Online) Gumi, a grandma whose new brick house rebuilt with Star cash was destroyed in the March disaster, is now too scared to live on the beach. She lives in a new settlement built with Indonesian government cash further up the hill. The electricity supply is still unreliable and the phone system was never restored. But out of such disaster, Sorake Beach has emerged stronger than ever.

Sinali Bulalo (Bu’ulölö ? – Nias Online), who promised Star readers he would “re-build my home for my family despite all the suffering” was true to his word. ith £4,000 of Sorake Beach Appeal cash, he rebuilt his concrete home for his wife and four children.

Seven other families have rebuilt their houses with Star readers’ money and 10 others are currently under construction. Local man Kone has helped form a community group – the Sorake Beach Care Club – partly funded by appeal cash, which will help keep the area clean for the surfers who have returned to the village. They have cleaned the beach, installed bins and planted trees.

“They realise that they must keep the place clean if the tourists are going to keep on coming back. It’s a very important source of income for them,” says Jo-Anne.

More than £4,500 has been used to pay tuition fees for the children of the village, which has helped keep all the 100 youngsters in full-time education.

o-Anne said: “Although the money wasn’t initially designed to pay for this, it was very important. If we hadn’t paid for the children then their parents would have pulled them out of their classes to help with the re-building.”

Many of the villagers have emerged stronger and more wealthy, from the disaster zone. The quake was so powerful it altered the height of the reef, creating “the newest wave on Earth” which has attracted surfers from all over the world.

And because of the abundance of western surfers, many of the villagers had learnt English, something which many are putting into practice in their new jobs working for aid agencies.  And Mama Rio has a new wooden house. It only cost £2,000 and took a month to build, but it means the world to her and her four children.

Jo-Anne, who is now planning to return to live in Sorake Beach in 2008, said: “People in Sorake Beach are still talking about Sheffield, especially those who got a new house from the money raised by The Star’s appeal.

They will always remember Sheffield and where the money came from. They will remember that for the rest of their lives and it will be a story that they can pass on to their children.”

12 December 2006

Source: Sheffield Today

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December 2006