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Teen returns home to find family among quake dead

  • Story Highlights
  • Septiani Lenianingsih, 18, was at school when the landslide buried her village
  • More than 30 villagers -- young and old -- lost their lives in Malalak
  • Septiani: "I told myself this is God's way of testing me"
  • At least 608 people died in Indonesia following two devastating earthquakes
By Arwa Damon
CNN
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MALALAK, Indonesia (CNN) -- Septiani Lenianingsih stands off to the side, away from the crowds that have gathered to watch the backhoe at work.

Septiani with her uncle

Septiani Lenianingsih watches as villagers and emergency workers dig for bodies.

The land the machine is plowing through was once the village of Malalak, but it's now a mass grave.

Septiani, 18, watches silently, speaking only in whispers to her uncle who is helping direct the search for bodies swallowed up in the massive landslide triggered by Sumatra's earthquake last week.

She was at her boarding school when it all happened, she tells us. She learned from the news that her village was damaged and tried frantically to get in touch with her family over the phone. No one had the heart to tell her her family was dead.

When she arrived at the site where her home once stood in Malalak, there were no younger brothers and sister running out to greet her. All that was left in place of her home was dirt.

She was left orphaned, alone. Her young face reflects the intense sorrow she is still getting used to. Video Watch more about her story »

"Shock, it was just pure shock," she says. Her eyes are dry, but her face is twisted with emotions. "I just want to find my family. My mother, she loved me so much."

More than 30 villagers -- young and old -- lost their lives in Malalak. Right after the earthquake, the side of the mountain exploded and came barreling down, swallowing everything in its path. iReport.com: Are you there? Share your story

There used to be a mosque with a volleyball court out front. Nearly a dozen children were playing there when the landslide came, and they were all swept away.

At least 608 people were killed in Indonesia following two devastating earthquakes last week. Hundreds are still missing and authorities fear the death toll will climb as more bodies are found in the rubble.

We made the journey to Malalak with a small aid convoy, an initiative by Romeo Rissal Pandjialam, the regional director for Bank of Indonesia. Along the winding mountain roads we could see the devastation. Smaller landslides narrowed the road with debris, crushed homes lined the route.

It's the small local volunteer groups, like the one we are with, that have rallied together to get much-needed food, water, medical supplies, and tents to the outlying areas.

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Although aid is needed throughout the quake zone, and families are desperately trying to rebuild their homes, for some their losses cannot be replaced.

"I told myself this is God's way of testing me. I have to be strong, I have to finish school," Septiani swears. Her breath is labored and her voice soft as she fights her emotions and the overwhelming pain of losing her family and their love.

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