- Associated Press - Thursday, December 23, 2010

LANGSA, Indonesia | Six years after a powerful tsunami swept more than 200,000 to their deaths, Titik Yuniarti still clings to hope at least one of her children is alive.

Like other desperate mothers, she has placed ads begging for information in newspapers in western Indonesia and hung fliers alongside others fluttering from lampposts.

Earlier this month, her search almost cost her her life.

The 43-year-old woman raised suspicions when she tried to meet a girl she thought might be her child. Villagers accused her of being a kidnapper and thrashed her and a friend almost to death.

The Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami killed an estimated 230,000 people in 12 Indian Ocean nations, from Thailand to Sri Lanka. Hardest hit by far was Indonesia’s Aceh province, where 164,000 died. Of those, 37,000 were never found, their bodies presumed washed out to sea.

Today, a massive international aid effort has rebuilt tens of thousands of homes, schools and roads. But closure has been much more difficult for some. While most have given up the search for missing children, a number press on.

Mrs. Yuniarti, who lost her entire family in the disaster, set out earlier this month in search of her middle child, Salwa. The journey was inspired by a dream Mrs. Yuniarti’s mother had, in which Salwa appeared and said she had been taken in by a family in the town of Langsa in Aceh.

It took seven hours on a bumpy coastal road to get there. Clutching a picture of her curly haired child - who was 6 when she was ripped from her mother’s arms and sucked out to sea - Mrs. Yuniarti and a friend went from school to school, talking to principals, teachers and students.

They sat down with police and met with neighborhood leaders, anyone who would listen.

“After three days, we finally met a girl named Febby,” Mrs. Yuniarti said from her hospital bed, her face covered in bruises, her neck swollen and an intravenous drip dangling from her arm.

“She had the same tumble of black hair, a freckle over her lip,” she said in a soft voice, smiling weakly. “Some people even told me she’d lost her parents in the tsunami and had been adopted. I was still afraid to believe it, but in my heart, I thought, it’s her … it’s really her.”

When they returned the next day, though, a woman who identified herself as Febby’s mother blocked them and demanded to know what they wanted with her only daughter.

A crowd started gathering, quickly swelling to more than 100.

Soon whispers spread that Mrs. Yuniarti might want to abduct the 12-year-old, maybe even sell her organs, echoing kidnapping rumors that have circulated across Indonesia in recent months.

Some chanted “Hang her! Hang her!” Others torched the building where the two women had been hiding. When they emerged, the mob beat them with heavy sticks and rocks, ignoring warning shots fired by police.

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