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Torn Apart by the Tsunami, An Indonesian Family Longs for a House to Unite Them

BLANG MEULONG, 12th June 2006: Y.S. Abdulah lost his home on the west coast of Aceh, Indonesia, when the Indian Ocean tsunami destroyed the village of Blang Meulong. He is anxious to rebuild his house and reunite his family. Abdulah returned to the west coast six months ago, but his wife and five-year-old son live in barracks with her family. Three times a month he makes the two-hour trip to visit them.

New home coming: on the steps of the house she shares with grandson Abdulah, Safiah shows off her prize chicken.

“For now she is more comfortable there, but as soon as the house is ready, I will bring them here,” he said.

Habitat for Humanity is constructing more than 400 houses in the villages near Lhok Kruet, including Blang Meulong, where Abdulah’s house will soon be built. Though less populous than urban Banda Aceh, the west coast communities have been more difficult to reconstruct. Complete destruction of roads and bridges hampered transport of construction materials into the area and all brick-making factories and sawmills were destroyed.

Nevertheless, Habitat has built more than 80 houses around Lhok Kruet and is ramping up the pace of construction.

The houses are approximately 42 sq. m. in size and comprise three rooms and a toilet, with a covered terrace entrance. They are brick construction with reinforced concrete columns and beams and a reflective, sheet-metal roof and are plastered and painted inside and out.

The new house will be a vast improvement over the tiny, one-room wooden house that Abdulah shares with his grandmother, Safiah. For months after returning to Blang Meulong, he lived in a tent, but it eventually wore out.

Abdulah has started a garden for income. He grows peanuts, corn, eggplant, cassava, chilies and other crops. Farming is new to him, but he is glad to have the work and the income. Before the tsunami, he had a food stall, but he hasn’t had the capital to set it up again.

“We have a well for bathing and watering the plants,” he said. But since the tsunami the water has not been good to drink. Families have to take jugs and haul drinking water from a delivery point one kilometer away.

Community leaders have no idea when electricity will be restored. Since it’s not enough to power every home, the one generator is seldom used. Despite hardships families cling to each other and to the hope of getting their lives back to normal.

In Abdulah’s community of 450, only 180 people survived the tsunami, a village leader says.