Homes Begin to Sprout in Town Hit by Tsunami

A rebuilt house. Credit: Michael Sullivan, NPR. i

Mursalin, 31, built a simple new wooden home on the foundation where his previous house stood. He built the structure with his own money. Michael Sullivan, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Michael Sullivan, NPR
A rebuilt house. Credit: Michael Sullivan, NPR.

Mursalin, 31, built a simple new wooden home on the foundation where his previous house stood. He built the structure with his own money.

Michael Sullivan, NPR

It's been seven months since the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami. Much of the world's attention is now focused on more urgent humanitarian aid efforts in the Sudan's Darfur region and Niger. But recovery and reconstruction operations continue in Asia, including the Indonesian province of Aceh.

A child in school. Credit: Michael Sullivan, NPR.

A teacher at the school in Peuken Bada says children there have had a hard time concentrating on their studies since the tsunami destroyed their town. Michael Sullivan, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Michael Sullivan, NPR

NPR's Michael Sullivan has been visiting one town there periodically to follow that effort. This is his latest report on Peuken Bada — a town that was virtually wiped off the map. About 10,000 of the town's 20,000 residents died in the disaster.

In-Depth

Previous NPR reports on the coastal village of Peuken Bada, in Aceh Province:

Samiruddin has moved a short distance from Peuken Bada. But he goes back just about every day to take his 10-year-old son Yusuran to school — the school he used to attend before the tsunami.

The building that housed the school was washed away. For now, the students make do inside a large tent provided by UNICEF. Next door, workers are busy on the new school. Yusuran's teacher, Fitria, says it should be finished by September.

Close to the water, 31-year-old Mursalin seems unconcerned by the devastation around him as he unlocks the door to his newly completed home.

He's built the one-room wooden house on the foundation of his old home with his own money, and with a little help from a friend. From the window there's a clear view of Mt. Salawa in the distance.

The view wasn't very good before the tsunami, he says. There were too many houses and trees in the way. Now he has a clear view of the mountains and the ocean. Acehnese humor was dark even before the tsunami; now it's darker still.

A small, battered TV and DVD player sit in the corner. They're powered by a small generator outside and help keep him company at night. Mursalin lost his entire family — parents, wife and two small children — to the tsunami.

No longer in a tent, Mursalin says he's even given thought to starting a new family. But without a steady job, he says, it will be difficult to support one. And there is another challenge, too. A disproportionate number of those killed by the tsunami were women. Many widowers like Mursalin now face stiff competition for the eligible women who remain.

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