Jess Adamson has opened up about the “one story that still breaks me” and revealed a recent update on the orphaned child she still intends to meet again.
Speaking on the Mix102.3 breakfast show on Tuesday morning, Jess told co-host Soda and the FOTS about being sent by Channel 7 to Indonesia to cover the Boxing Day tsunami that killed 230,000 people across 14 countries in 2004.
Listen below as Jess tells the story of trying to help the eight-year-old boy who was the only one from his family to escape the tsunami.
Arriving in Sumatra in Indonesia just hours after the tsunami had hit and even before emergency aid had arrived, Jess said what she witnessed was “the stuff of nightmares”.
“Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw when we landed,” she said.
“It was a human tragedy on an unimaginable scale. The city (Banda Aceh) had been virtually wiped from the map. There were bodies everywhere – children, adults in trees and cars.”
However she said amongst all the devastation, one story – that you can watch in the video player above – stands out above all the rest.
It is the story of an orphaned boy, about 8 years old, who was known to them only as No. 89. Later, Jess found out his name was Zulfhami.
The boy had been playing in his front yard when he noticed the water in the ocean had been sucked a long way back out to sea. He ran back into tell his Mum and Dad however his mother, who had just had a baby was not well.
His parents took him by the shoulders and told him “run to the mountains and we’ll follow you”.
“Of course, they never came. They were all lost in the tsunami. So he was all alone in this hospital,” Jess recalled.
Jess and the Channel 7 team managed to find out that Zulfhami had a grandmother who had survived the tsunami and convinced the American military to fly them from village to village with a photo of Zulfhami on Jess’s digital camera in a desperate bid to find the orphaned boy’s grandmother.
“At this last village we showed one of the villagers this photo and I couldn’t understand what they were saying but you could see that they recognised him and they ran off and a few minutes later this tiny lady was pushed forward,” Jess said.
“She’d never seen a helicopter before but she got on it and she was our little boy’s grandmother.
“So we managed to reunite them, we took her to the hospital (where her grandson was) and it was pretty amazing being there.”
Watch the video above as the young orphan and his grandmother meet for the first time since the tsunami.
The heartbreaking part is when Zulfhami breaks down in tears in his grandmother’s arms, saying “Mummy died, Daddy died.”
Jess’s voice quivered as she tried to talk about that moment but had heartwarming news about Zulfhami’s life today.
“It still makes me so emotional… it’s 15 years ago but it is the story of all the stories I’ve done that still breaks me,” Jess said.
“I made contact one with of the people we met back then only a couple of months ago and Zulfhami, our little boy, he’s now 23.”
“He’s still living with his elderly grandmother although in February of this year he got married (and) he’s working at a local supermarket.
“One day I will go back there because I really, really want to spend some time with him. He still remembers us apparently.
“It was just the most heartbreaking story but just being able to feel like we’d put them back together. It would have happened eventually but perhaps we sped up that process.”