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Indonesia/People and Projects

A New Home for Razali
(20 December 2005)
Razali Mahmoud
IR engineers built a new house for Razali, blind from birth, who survived the tsunami against all odds
- by Patrick Nicholson

For many in Aceh the tsunami killed without warning, extinguishing lives in an instant. Some survived because they were washed onto the tops of coconut trees, where they clung on for their lives.

Others saw the ten metre high wave bearing down on them, describing the dark wall of water as a giant question mark. They ran for their lives, many were caught by the water and killed by the debris churning within it.

Razali Mahmoud, 32 years old, lives in Blang Krueng, a coastal village on the outskirts of the province's capital Banda Aceh. He did not see the waves coming because he has been blind since he was a baby. "There was incredible confusion," he said.

"People were running in every direction, saying the sea was coming. It was terrifying, but my nephew found me and helped me escape. We were knocked off our feet many times by the current, but eventually we found safety. Without my nephew, I do not know if I would be here today."


The Indonesian province of Aceh was devastated by the tsunami on 26 December 2004: 170,000 people were killed, and 500,000 have been made homeless.

"It was traumatic for everybody," said Razali. "There were bodies everywhere. People were searching for friends and family. They said that we could not go back to the village because there was nothing left there but corpses." His survival was miraculous, but he does not think himself lucky. He lost his mother and two brothers that day.

New Home

Razali will move into his new home next month. Islamic Relief is nearing completion of the house. "I feel very happy about moving into my new house and starting to live again," he said. "For the last year I have been living in temporary shelter and it will be good to have a home again. I'm looking forward to just having some place where I can listen to the radio again."

Islamic Relief is building another 49 houses in Razali's village for widows of the tsunami. Nearby, the finishing touches are being put on another 100 houses that Islamic Relief is building for the workers at the local university who have been living in classrooms.

Razali Mahmoud said it has been difficult finding his bearings again in the village. As a blind man, he would get around by remembering where everything was. Now the village has been wiped away down to its foundations, and he must rely on the help of his friends to get around.

But he is hopeful that in two years the village will be rebuilt and he will be back on feet again finding his own way around

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