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A police officer who was declared dead after the 2004 Indonesian tsunami has been found alive after reportedly having a mental breakdown in the midst of the tragedy and ending up in a psychiatric hospital for the past 16 years.

By Margarita Maltceva

Abrip Asep was on duty when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck Indonesia on Boxing Day (December 26) in 2004, his family said. 

His relatives were heartbroken after they believed he was among the more than 230,000 people who had been killed when waves up to 100ft high swept in over Southeast Asia. 

Zainal Abidin went missing during the 2004 Aceh tsunami. The photo of the mental institution patient on the right is believed to be him. Photos: Istimewa

Asep was found in a psychiatric hospital in Aceh province, Indonesia, after suffering from mental health issues due to the traumas he witnessed during the tsunami. 

He had been reported missing by his family after the natural disaster hit Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh, and was later declared dead.   

Abrip Asep was on duty when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck Indonesia on Boxing Day in 2004, his family said. Pictured: The aftermath of the tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia 

But his relatives said they made the shock discovery that Asep was still alive in recent weeks after photos were shared on a family group chat on social media. 

A relative said: ‘I couldn’t believe it, 17 years of no news and we thought that he passed away, we didn’t know he was still alive.’

The local police confirmed that the man found in the psychiatric hospital was Abrip, reported as missing during the tsunami and later declared dead.

Asep (left) was found in a psychiatric hospital in Aceh province, Indonesia, after suffering from mental health issues due to the traumas he witnessed during the tsunami

A spokesperson for the Aceh Regional Police said: ‘Even though he is experiencing mental illness due to the tsunami, his family is very grateful to have found him alive.’

It is unclear why his family were not notified he was in the psychiatric hospital.

The tsunami was the effect of an underwater earthquake just after 1am on Boxing Day, the third largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph, with a magnitude of 9.0-9.3.

The gigantic water movement that followed saw waves of up to 100ft hit the coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. 

Indonesia was seriously affected by the tsunami, suffering at least 167,000 casualties, a number which is thought to be closer to 200,000.

But it is unlikely that this will ever be confirmed as thousands of bodies could never be recovered as they were swept out to sea by the powerful waves.

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