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Voices from the Tsunami
Aired December 31, 2005 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Carol Lin and happening in the news, 2006 is already ringing in in other parts of the world. The clock struck midnight in Berlin and in London there, Big Ben chiming midnight. For thousands celebrating and thousands more getting ready for their own party in New York's Times Square and that's where we find our very own master of ceremonies, Anderson Cooper.
Hey, Anderson, what's going on out there?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey, Carol. Happy New Year to you and to everyone else out there. It is an amazing night. As many as a million people expected to be right here in Times Square and if you can see the crowds all around me, there may be that many people here already.
As far as the eyes can see it is just a sea of people and of course we are all waiting for the big moment, the stroke of midnight, when the confetti comes down.
Tonight we have a huge assortment of guests who are going to be joining us. We start broadcasting right after your program, Carol, at 11:00 Eastern we go on the air.
We're staying on the air well past 1:00 a.m. to help bring in the new year for people in the Central Time Zone. We're going to be not only here in Times Square, the capital of New Year's, if you will, but we're also going to be down in Key West, Florida. John Zarrella has something called the drag queen drop down there, which bears a lot of explaining but I'm sure he'll do that.
We're also going to be live in Chicago and New Orleans to see how they are ringing in the New Year. And of course, the party has already begun here in Times Square, Carol, and it is going to be quite an evening.
LIN: Anderson, why does that crowd look like a bunch of bumblebees down there? They're all in yellow.
COOPER: You know, some companies hand out products and try to get them to wear them and companies handed out yellow hats. That's what everyone has this year.
LIN: All right. We're waiting to see yours Anderson.
We're looking forward to seeing you tonight. Thanks very much. Anderson is going to be on at 11:00 p.m. He is going in for all the excitement in Times Square and countdown to the New Year. That is 11:00 p.m. Eastern.
And time now for CNN PRESENTS, "Voices from the Tsunami." CNN reporters, the people they met and the incredible survivors of the tsunami share their stories from a year ago and through their year of recovery as hope returns to the devastated parts of Asia.
And coming up at 9:00 p.m. on LARRY KING LIVE, "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood plus country music legends Barbara Mandrel and Trisha Yearwood. That is at 9:00 Eastern, only on CNN.
I'm Carol Lin. I'll see you at 10:00 p.m. with the latest up to the minute news on CNN SATURDAY NIGHT.
ANNOUNCER: It struck without warning, leaving behind an ocean of misery.
UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: We ran for our lives but it caught us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it was an unbelievable sequence of events that enabled me to escape in the first place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're in complete and utter shock. They can't believe this has happened to them. It's like a nightmare.
ANNOUNCER: A year later, a look back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is it like to be back here?
ANNOUNCER: We revisit a scarred landscape and a healing nation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no parents anymore. That's why we need to be taught to do everything by ourselves.
ANNOUNCER: CNN PRESENTS, "Voices from the Tsunami."
ANNOUNCER: Hear the "Voices of the Tsunami" telling stories that need few words to tell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am searching for my mother. Rhea Ekelkamp (ph). She is from Holland. She is 53 years old.
ANNOUNCER: Stories of life and love and loss. Stories of fundamental human emotion from a disaster that strains human comprehension.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sheer scale of the devastation. It's on a level that I think nobody has seen before, at least in this lifetime.
ANNOUNCER: Stories of hope.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I still have hopes that my parents are alive, searching for me in Tenshin (ph). I'm all right, papa, mama, please come back again.
ANNOUNCER: Stories of grief.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lost everyone and everything. My four children and my husband are gone. Gone.
ANNOUNCER: Stories of resilience.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we are all together, we can stand. If we divide we fall. At this moment we should stand together.
ANNOUNCER: The story of an eight-year-old boy reaching out to sooth a crying woman. The story of the last man standing in the ruins of a town of 10,000 people, a town that no longer exists.
In a world profoundly changed, it's easy to forget that December 26th was once just a sleepy Sunday morning in Asia. In India and Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka, it started out like any other day. Children playing, people working, streets busy, life as usual.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My plan was to grow old gracefully here.
ANNOUNCER: Naturalized Australian David Lines (ph) lives on the seashore in Indonesia in Lnok Nga. A surfer, he had moved here for the waves, built his dream house and married a local woman, Nerma (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what I do is I get up in the morning and go surfing. And I have coffee and I eat fruit and we have a lot of good fun here.
ANNOUNCER: In Thailand, Rob Rubin (ph) and Rebecca Betel (ph) were doing the same thing thousands of other tourists were doing, vacationing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an absolute tropical paradise. Just miles and miles of perfect, sandy beaches, palm trees. On Christmas day, families walking on the beach. It was something you'd see in a post card.
ANNOUNCER: CNN correspondent Satinder Bindra was in Sri Lanka, a nation with a history of civil war and turmoil, observing a country on the rebound.
SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As peace talks have taken hold, some prosperity has returned to this island nation. Shops began to open up. Commerce and maids (ph) started to flourish, new hotels started to come up, and tourists, who had once deserted this beautiful island, started to return in large numbers.
ANNOUNCER: But deep beneath the sea, off the coast of Indonesia the world was shifting. JOHN EBEL, BOSTON COLLEGE: You have the fault right here and this part of the Indian Ocean actually slid under the island of Sumatra and the islands to the north.
ANNOUNCER: The result, an earthquake so large it would effect the rotation of the earth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was still in bed but I was awake. We felt the earthquake, got the people who were in the house with us, there was five of us in all, waited the earthquake out and we're getting provisions.
ANNOUNCER: The quake was detected around the world, including the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii which monitors the Pacific Ocean for the dangerous waves.
PROF. JOSE BORRERO, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: They have a network of seismometers and tsunami detectors actually out in the ocean so if something like this were to happen, they would know several hours in advance before it reached the distant shores.
ANNOUNCER: The center issued a bulletin on an 8.0 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean noting no threat existed in the Pacific region. Fifty minutes later, another bulletin, raising the strength of the earthquake to 8.5 and adding there is the possibility of a tsunami near the epicenter. The Indian Ocean and the countries that surround it have no warning system.
BORRERO: The people who felt the ground shaking, that was their warning.
ANNOUNCER: Unexpected and unannounced, a deadly wall of water was heading for land at speeds up to 500 miles per hour.
ANNOUNCER: Still ahead, the tsunami's deadly impact.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no way anyone can tell you what emotion you feel when you see a wall of water one story high flood the lobby of a hotel, park three cars in the back of the lobby and you see people swimming around in there.
ANNOUNCER: And later, the voices of survival.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't describe it. I'm just so glad to be home.
ANNOUNCER: The day began unremarkably for many on the shores of the Indian Ocean, but the waves speeding out from the earthquake's epicenter would change forever the lives of unsuspecting thousands.
CNN's Satinder Bindra was on a holiday in Sri Lanka. BINDRA: There was absolutely no advance warning of the tsunami. In fact, the only thing unusual that I can remember was that the sea was noisy the night before. The morning of, I stepped off onto the balcony and I noticed the tide had come in. The waters had been rising quite fast and hundreds of people were out on the street, out on the shore, they were watching what was happening, people had brought their cameras.
Suddenly, the water started spilling across the street from where I was and coming right towards us. Then I knew something unusual was going on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...Fifteen, 20 feet tall, easy.
Get in, get in, get in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wave hit. And we have big waves in the channel. It was a wave that hit but there was a solid wall behind it and it just kept coming. Nothing was going to stop that wave and it was the biggest wave I've ever seen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming again! Coming again!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the sound of the muffled booming coming from the sea, I thought that has to be waves.
ANNOUNCER: As a surfer, David Lines knew the look of waves and he knew that this one was different and deadly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I ran to the end of the property, where the river is. I could see a big wave which was coming in which was about 12 meters or so and I said, that's got to wash over this little sand spit here and it's going to come into the land. Let's go.
I had a look into the rear view mirror, the wave is taller than a man and it's debris pushing right through and stick figures ahead of it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God. This is a tidal wave.
MOIRA LEE, PATONG BEACH, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: We were having coffee and the woman in the coffee shop said to us, the water is too high, and she kept saying that. Not a minute later she screamed, "Run," and we all just started running.
We ran for about several streets with the water right at our heels.
ANNOUNCER: Those who couldn't outrun the rushing waters were swept up in them. They struggled to stay afloat.
As his train was washed away in Sri Lanka, Shenth Ravindra helped those he could. SHENTH RAVINDRA, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: There was a little panic, a lot of people were hysterical. A lot of people were grabbing hold of me and people around and there's one particular mother who had about three or four children around and obviously she didn't have enough arms to hold her children and she was imploring me to grab hold of her children and look after her children, which I did.
So I was trying to grab hold to as many people as possible as well as secure myself to the train for when the second wave hit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's so crazy. Unbelievable. And at one point I thought I couldn't hold on and bodies were flowing by and that motivated me to maybe hang on a little longer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was awoken by this crashing noise. It sounded like a landslide, an earthquake, a plane crashing and a train wreck, all at the same time.
ANNOUNCER: At their Thai resort, Ron Rubin and Rebecca Betel rushed to find higher ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I jumped out of bed and I ran for the door. When I looked down I could see the water coming through the first floor of the hotel. The pool was turning from blue to brown. The whole first floor of the hotel was underwater.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It happened so fast, in five seconds and there was no time to think about anything at all. What I did was just kept my eyes on him and just followed him and he saved my life by knowing to go to the roof.
ANNOUNCER: For Norwegian tourist Anders Ericsson (ph), the second floor of his Thai hotel was not high enough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the wave hit, it first smashed the windows of the second floor and in a moment the concrete wall was busted and we were flushed out of the room.
I was holding my son in my arms and he had these blue swimming arms on him. And the last thing he said to me was, "Daddy, I'm scared, please help."
We were flushed out and I changed the grip in my hand and I lost him.
ANNOUNCER: On the coast of Sri Lanka, many lost everything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The water was rising and the sea was coming. We ran for our lives but it caught us and the water almost came up to our necks. We managed to escape the first wave which destroyed our house.
Later my son was found alive, but my husband was missing, had been drowned.
BINDRA: In Galle, the scene was really scary. My friend told me then that buses were being swept away, they were being parked on the top of buildings and that you could see floating bodies everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no way anybody can tell you what emotion you'll feel when you see a wall of water one story high flood the lobby of a hotel, park three cars in the back of the lobby and you see people swimming around in that and you don't know what you can do to get them out. There is no emotion (ph).
ANNOUNCER: When we continue, the water recedes, leaving debris and desperation.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to CNN PRESENTS.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My three houses have been swallowed by the waves. Everything was taken by the sea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I rushed home and managed to rescue my mother. I found my daughter's body in the debris of my house.
ANNOUNCER: This sprawling field of debris on the Indonesian coast used to be a town of 10,000 inhabitants. Now there is only one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I've been trying to find my mother so I don't care about help, but not even one helicopter came here.
ANNOUNCER: His entire family is dead. His fellow survivors, scattered.
Miles up the road, dazed villagers staggered toward help. Less than 300 people survived from the town of 10,000.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think there are only about 30 children left. This place was crowded with children, but the water was just too high.
ANNOUNCER: In India, as in every other place in the tsunami's wake, children make up a high proportion of the dead and missing.
SUHASINI HAIDAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After the wave had gone, one of the men told us about he and neighbors had decided to go back to the beach to look for their children. He described how they walked along the beach, looking through the mud, picking up children's bodies and then he said he would wipe the face of those children, identify them and because there was nothing else they could do at that moment they would put those bodies back and bury them right where they were.
STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we came across a group of bodies in the distance and from where I stood, I could see that they were children, no more than babies, really, aged really between one and three and from a distance it just didn't really look real. They looked almost like mannequins or dolls. And as I got closer I saw their arms were locked around each other. They were hanging onto each other.
As I stood there, the bulldozer came through and it lifted up these three bodies and put it onto a funeral pyre. They stacked the wood about a meter or so high and placed these bodies on a funeral pyre.
And standing there live on air, describing this scene in front of me and trying to do my job as a reporter.
At that moment, the fire was lit and it was a funeral service. That's what I was witnessing. It was a funeral service. No priests, no mourners, no parents, just three little babies in this barren landscape lifted up onto a funeral pyre and set alight.
ANNOUNCER: On a beach in Thailand, a mother desperately holds on to hope.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We went to Punga (ph) which was the hardest hit area in southern Thailand and we were doing reports during the day and to our left there was a mother who was sitting just kind of on a blanket, very simply, looking at the devastation that was behind us, and that's where her daughter last was and that's the last place she knew where she was.
And every day all she could do was just come there, sit there and look out. She just hoped and prayed that her daughter would stumble back to that site.
ANNOUNCER: But hope gradually slips away.
RAMAN: And by the third day you got the sense that some sort of grief was slowly creeping in and that the inevitable reality, perhaps, was starting to sink in.
ANNOUNCER: Of the children who survived, many are now alone, parents, families nowhere to be found.
At an overwhelmed hospital in Indonesia, two injured women, their own families missing, looked after an inconsolable boy named Yuda (ph).
SHUBERT: As soon as we walked in and started talking to Yuda and these two women, we were surrounded by people. People looking for family members and all of them asking for help.
And one of them was a young woman whose family had just been wiped out and she was just going from place to place trying to find them.
One of the scenes I remember most vividly is she was sitting next to Yuda as I was talking to her and she was starting to recount to me what happened to her family and started to cry and Yuda, who was sitting next to her, who had been in his own world up until that point, wasn't speaking to anybody, suddenly looked over to her and just made this connection of sympathizing with her.
And he reached over and held her hand and it was a really touching moment.
ANNOUNCER: When we continue, the tsunami's terrible toll.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't think of any other catastrophe that is entirely natural that has caused such a change to so many people across such a vast area.
LIN: I'm Carol Lin with a look at what's happening right now in the news and we're talking about dangerous flooding in Northern California and more rain is on the way. Storms sweeping in from the Pacific have caused mudslides. Creeks and rivers are flowing over their banks. Evacuations are underway in some areas.
Baby Noor has arrived in the U.S. She is a little three-month- old Iraqi baby who needs urgent treatment for spina bifida, a potentially fatal birth defect. Doctors hope to perform surgery on her in the next week or so.
And at the top of the hour on LARRY KING LIVE, Larry talks to country music legends Barbara Mandrel and Trisha Yearwood and up and coming singer Carrie Underwood, only on CNN.
Now back to CNN PRESENTS, "Voices of the Tsunami." One year later, CNN revisits the survivors and those who rushed to save them.
Tonight at 11:00 p.m., join Anderson for all the excitement in Times Square and count down to the new year with CNN.
And I'll see you at 10:00 p.m. Eastern with the latest up-to-the- minute news on CNN SATURDAY NIGHT. I'm Carol Lin.
ANNOUNCER: We now return to CNN PRESENTS.
It's a scene eerily reminiscent of September 11th. In Phuket, Thailand, what was a vacation paradise has become Ground Zero. Family members post photographs of missing friends and relatives, hoping, praying that the giant waves didn't claim their loved ones.
RAMAN: You saw so many kids' pictures there with their parents' numbers and you couldn't help but feel for the situation. Their parents were doing nothing more than wandering this island kind of like zombies wondering what to do. You can't leave until you know what's happened to your child and to see those images was incredibly stark.
And just a few feet across were photos of the dead taken for identification purposes. So you had these very lively pictures of these beautiful kids who their parents are desperately looking for and just a few feet across from them pictures of those we already knew didn't make it.
ANNOUNCER: A Swiss tourist desperately searches for his wife. The couple was vacationing in Southern Thailand when the ferocious wave hit their resort. He has scoured crowded hospitals and morgues. Still he cannot find her.
THOMAS ZUMBUEHL, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: She is tall, a strong lady and for the moment she is pregnant. From five months so she has a big stomach and she's really correct (ph) woman and somebody - if she is somewhere she will make everything to come back to me. I know.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Incredibly emotional he became. He told me, "I don't know how I am going to carry on with my life when I get back to Switzerland." He had just about started a new job and he couldn't face it.
ANNOUNCER: Some families have flown all the way from Sweden into the devastated area to search for relatives.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had to be here. We were sitting home and seeing it on the television so we have to be here and see what we can do, if we can find her.
HUGH RIMINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Short of the last Ice Age, I can't think of any catastrophe that is entirely natural and has caused such a change to so many people across such an area. It is a truly global thing. If something that happens off the coast of Sumatra becomes Sweden's worst ever natural disaster.
ANNOUNCER: As waters recede, the grim realization of the tsunami's horrific destruction, the death toll climbs by the hour.
Off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the highest death toll.
These before and after satellite images show the unimaginable damage. Entire villages swept off t he face of the earth.
MIKE GRIFFITHS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No village is left standing between Malabo (ph) and Chalum (ph), which is about 100 miles north of Malabo. It's like a nuclear blast has hit the area.
ANNOUNCER: Further north, the Indonesian town of Chelong (ph) where 13,000 lived no longer exists.
GRIFFITHS: It's vaporized. There's just nothing left. In fact, you wouldn't even recognize that there had been a town there unless you had flown over it before and you had seen it from the air, then you would realize that, in fact, a town had once existed there. All you can see now is basically a very vague outline of some of the roads that used to carry traffic.
SHUBERT: The sheer scale of the devastation, it's on a level that I think nobody has seen before, at least in this lifetime. And it's really on a scale that's just completely unfathomable. We've covered other disasters in the past but nothing like this.
ANNOUNCER: Thailand's Kowlak (ph) Beach, another favorite European resort town, became a morgue. Rows of decomposed bodies littered the streets.
CHANCE: Resort after resort, tourist hotel after tourist hotel, has been not just flooded with water, but completely crushed. Concrete structures crushed. Cars, trucks, boats thrown a mile inland. The forest absolutely flat and absolute devastation. Again, it's astonishing to imagine that this was caused by a wave, not by some kind of bomb.
ANNOUNCER: In Sri Lanka, fishing villages up and down the coast were wiped out. The dead and injured filled hospitals to capacity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was fishing and then I went for tea. I saw the tsunami coming. I lost 18 relatives, including my two children and my wife. I lost my boat, my house and my family.
BINDRA: I talked to one man. He had lost eight members of his family. Two of his loved ones' bodies weren't even found. Several orphanages along the eastern coast of Sri Lanka have been completely destroyed. In one orphanage alone, 40 orphans killed.
ANNOUNCER: Along the southeast Indian coastline, still more loss. Rescuers find rotting bodies in jungles and on the remote Nicobar and Andaman Islands.
HAIDAR: This region has seen so many disasters, both natural as well as manmade ones, but I think it's the sheer numbers of people affected in this one that makes this possibly the biggest story I will ever cover.
One of the islands we visited, officials told us that at least one in four people on that island had either been killed, had suffered serious injury or had lost an immediate family member.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is mind boggling to be thinking, God, this is enormous and by the end of the day you'd be thinking this is bigger than I imagined. And the next day it would keep on getting bigger and bigger. The scale of it. The degree of the loss in some places. The sense of annihilation that came out of this wave.
ANNOUNCER: When we continue, in the face of devastation, the stories of survival.
RAVINDRA: There was like a sea of dead bodies. Children and women maybe. And the majority of them were children, so I had to clear a path through the water by pushing these people away and heading as far inland as possible.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to CNN PRESENTS.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nearly 6,000 people have been killed.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: More than 22,000 dead and the body count is climbing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A hundred and fifty six thousand people reported dead.
ANNOUNCER: It's being called the worst natural disaster in history. So much death and despair. But there were also glimmers of hope, stories of courage and survival.
RAVINDRA: The train moved off the tracks. I could see it actually be disattached from the other carriages and as the water starts to rush in the train carriage started to tilt, at which point I fell against one of the doorways and water started to fill up up into my neck.
ANNOUNCER: In Sri Lanka, Shenth Ravindra was trapped on a train caught in the tsunami's path. A second wave would strike 30 minutes later.
RAVINDRA: Suddenly this wave took up - it must have been 85 percent of the horizon, and was coming towards us and this all pushed the train inland to the point where it got wedged against a house. I was able to jump from the top of this train to the top of this house. I had to take my chance with the water, maybe swim a little bit and maybe get as far - as close to dry land as possible.
There was like a sea of dead bodies, children and women mainly. I had to clear a path through the water by pushing these people away and heading as far inland as possible, so it was just a case of survival.
ANNOUNCER: Of the more than 1,000 passengers onboard, Ravindra is only one of about 100 to survive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I held both of them in my hands and one on each arm and we started going under.
ANNOUNCER: In Thailand, Australian Jillian Surrel (ph) was forced to make the ultimate decision. Let go of one of her two sons to save the other.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had to let go of one of them and I just thought I should let go of the one that was the oldest. And a lady grabbed hold of him for a moment but she had to let go because she was going under and I was screaming, trying to find him, and we thought he was dead.
ANNOUNCER: Two hours later, Jillian's son, a five-year-old named Lockie (ph) was found alive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just so horrible. I'm so thankful that I've still got my two kids with me.
ANNOUNCER: Nearly seven days after the tsunami, a healthy, smiling 18 month old from Kazakhstan was returned to the Kazakh ambassador after a woman discovered the boy floating on a mattress off Thailand's Kowlak (ph) resort.
Twenty-three year-old Milawati (ph) spent five days alone and adrift in the Indian Ocean. She was found clinging to a palm tree, weak, injured, but amazingly still conscious.
CHARLOTTE WINGAARD, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: It feels bad to be home because you're still so there in your mind and in your feelings.
ANNOUNCER: Charlotte Wingaard and Ulrika Olsen (ph), two Swedish au pairs, were vacationing in Thailand.
WINGAARD: And I saw water down at my feet and then I looked up slowly and I saw water from me and myself to the horizon. Just water. Just water coming towards us.
ANNOUNCER: The girls and the family they worked for were separated by the cataclysmic waves.
WINGAARD: I took one of the little children to me and then we both fell down on my head and I dropped her. And luckily she got caught under the water so she didn't disappear with the waves.
ANNOUNCER: Grabbing the child, Charlotte clung to the three- year-old for more than three hours. They were later rescued by Thai fisherman.
ULRIKA OLSSON, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: I don't think you can imagine the feeling.
ANNOUNCER: An Indonesian man adrift for eight days. A 27 year old buried alive for five. A fisherman pinned under his boat for an entire week. And of course, the American couple, Ron Rubin and Rebecca Betel, who narrowly escaped watery graves by traveling to the roof of their hotel.
But their story does not end there. A tiny Scandinavian boy was about to enter their lives.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From the roof point where we had been during the tsunami we got up here and we thought this was the highest we could go so this is where we ended up. Everybody was missing somebody so this is kind of the place people were trickling in to see if they could find each other.
CHANCE: And is this the exact place where you found Hanus (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Right here.
CHANCE: You didn't know his name was Hanus, did you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Of course not. He was laying right over in that spot over there.
ANNOUNCER: The couple picked up little Hanus Bergstrom. In shock and half drowned, the boy had literally been snatched from his grandfather's arms by the roaring currents. A few days later he was reunited with his Swedish family, but not all of his loved ones survived.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very emotional to see that the father was alive and the grandmother was alive and it's a tragedy that the mother died but we were just - we were so happy for him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he was playing normally, just like a normal kid. He had a toy and he kept squeezing it and was talking and he was not like that the day we had him. He was not talking. He was not playing. He was very out of it. So we were very happy to see he looked perfectly normal again.
ANNOUNCER: Amid the joy of survival there is still unmistakable pain.
AMANDA SIMONS, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: We worked hard to find. Her name is Matilda and she was from Argentina and we were in the sea together and when it went up she said take my hand and I said no I can't because I'm holding on to someone you can swim on your own and I didn't take her hand but when the next wave came she didn't come back up.
ANNOUNCER: When our story continues, the tsunami survivors one year later.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have to struggle to survive because we lost those we loved.
ANNOUNCER: Correspondent Alex Quade revisits three children orphaned by the tsunami.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Everything is gone and there is only one tilted house.
ALEX QUADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ten-year-old Ecca (ph), 14-year- old Nana (ph) and their brother, 16-year-old Marwadi (ph) returned to their neighborhood for the first time. Four thousand people lived here. Few survived. Bodies float in the water, bake under the rubble.
The children take us and an uncle along to find their house.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): There were a lot of houses here. Four full blocks. We lived over there at the end. There were a lot of stores on my right here and here was the fish farm.
The day it happened looked exactly like this, nice and sunny, but today the waves look nice. UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): When the earthquake hit, mama was so scared that she started praying. We looked toward the ocean and all of the sudden there was the wave. Dad told us to take the motorbike and run away. This was when we last saw him.
QUADE: The three children on their small motorbike raced down this road. The tsunami they could hear directly behind them. They fell off their bike several times. They even hit a pedestrian. They couldn't stop to see how he was. They had to outrun the wave.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It was really tall, taller than that tree. When we were on the bike here, I looked behind me and saw a two story house crashing down, hit by the really tall wave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The water was coming closer, as if a damn had broken. It was about 50 meters behind us, so we continued.
QUADE: Their search for their parents began in a mass of corpses.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We both looked at the bodies. Ecca was too scared. She waited on the motorbike. We looked for three days.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We couldn't look anymore because bodies were starting to decompose. We'd open the body bags and we couldn't even tell who they looked like.
QUADE: The children don't talk about losing their parents, but about what they remember. Ecca says her father was teaching her to ride the motorbike. Nana misses their mother's singing. Marwadi prayed with their father every day.
So they search through the rubble for some sign of their former life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I wish out of all of this I could find at least something for identity. A school certificate or something. There is nothing left.
QUADE: They finally see their home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): This is our house.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is mom's room.
QUADE: And these were their rooms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): This is where I used to cook. This is where I used to wash.
QUADE: She misses cooking with her mother.
Nana wants to leave her mark. This was her room. But her pen dies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): You can't see it clearly.
QUADE: Nana, Ecca and Marwadi must move on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Brother, there is nothing left.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, there is nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): That is my school.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): That's the library and these are all the classes.
There is nothing left. I don't know where we'll go to school.
QUADE: No school, home, money or parents. Their future, uncertain.
One year later, I find Nana, Ecca and Marwadi at an uncle's. Babysitting his four children in exchange for shelter.
Nana goes to a new school, so does Ecca and they now wear Muslim headscarves. Marwadi goes to a new mosque.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have to struggle to survive because we lost who we loved. Allah gave us this challenge and we had to face it.
QUADE: They miss their old home so we go back.
What is it like to be back here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's very different now. There is nothing here. There should be new houses here by now but the government doesn't allow the redevelopment because it's too close to the sea.
QUADE: The little left of their house taken.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Someone took the toilet. There are people going through the rubble looking for things to take.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): This is a broken plate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It was mama's plate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Why didn't the scavengers take it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What for? It's damaged?
QUADE: The children tell me that even a year later they still worry about stumbling across bodies. They found a skeleton here not too long ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Nana, I'm afraid to walk over here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I'm afraid when I see the ocean.
QUADE: They don't like to go much closer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am also afraid. The other day I went out there after low tide and found many bones and skulls.
QUADE: Then he teases.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Go further. There's ghosts. Ghosts will take you.
QUADE: It's been a tough year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I feel like I've replaced my father because I have to take care of my sisters.
QUADE: Ecca has taken their loss the hardest, her sister says.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is very hard to take care of Ecca. She never finishes her homework.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I only study when there is a quiz.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I tell her she needs to change her attitude because it is very important for her future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I always remind Ecca that we have no parents anymore. That's why we have to be tough and do everything by ourselves.
QUADE: Marwadi wants to be a doctor. Nana a nurse. And Ecca jokes, a hospital manager so she can boss them around.
Last time we were here we came over here and the pen, you tried to write your name on the floor, this was your room, and the pen did not work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes, the pen did not work when I wanted to mark this ground. My brother made a sign.
This is to protect our family's property.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): A bulldozer will come and level the land. I'm afraid if I don't leave my sign, I won't find my property again.
QUADE: A year after the great tsunami, they have hope for the future which Ecca sings about. And their smiles are back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I want us to be successful in our lives, to help others, and I want us to live the way our parents wanted us to.
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