Na­tion re­calls tsunami hor­ror

Twelve years later, 400 bod­ies have not been iden­ti­fied in Thai­land

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Banda Aceh, In­done­sia

Thou­sands of In­done­sians prayed for their loved ones on Mon­day to mark a tsunami which dev­as­tated Aceh prov­ince 12 years ago to­day, one of the worst nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in hu­man his­tory.

Some 168,000 lives were lost in the coun­try when a mag­ni­tude-9.1 quake struck Aceh, a prov­ince in the north­ern tip of Su­ma­tra Is­land, bring­ing about mas­sive waves that also hit coastal ar­eas as far away as So­ma­lia.

“I came here ev­ery year to pray for my chil­dren, daugh­ter-in-law, and their three chil­dren,” Maryam, who goes by one name, said at the Ulee Lheue mass grave, where 14,800 peo­ple were buried.

The bod­ies of her fam­ily were never found but 65-yearold Maryam, who sur­vived by hold­ing on to a tree trunk, was cer­tain her fam­ily were buried in the mass grave as they lived in the vicin­ity at the time.

Flow­ers scat­tered

Graves across the prov­ince, in­clud­ing in Siron in Aceh Be­sar district where more than 46,000 were buried, were crowded with peo­ple who scat­tered flow­ers on the earth where they be­lieve the re­mains of their loved ones lie to rest.

Sur­vivors then gath­ered at a mass prayer in Ulee Lheue mosque, one of the few seafront mosques still stand­ing in the re­gion af­ter the tsunami.

“The main rea­son to com­mem­o­rate the earthquake and tsunami dis­as­ter was not to open old wounds,” act­ing Aceh gov­er­nor Soedarmo told the mosque at­ten­dance.

In­done­sia sits on the Pa­cific “Ring of Fire”, where the meet­ing of con­ti­nen­tal plates causes strong seis­mic ac­tiv­ity, and is fre­quently hit by earthquakes.

The tsunami com­mem­o­ra­tion comes just weeks af­ter a strong mag­ni­tude-6.5 shal­low quake struck in­land in Pi­die Jaya, a district in Aceh, killing more than 100 peo­ple, lev­el­ing hun­dreds of build­ings and dis­plac­ing nearly 84,000 peo­ple.

In Thai­land, at least 400 vic­tims of the 2004 tsunami that killed 220,000 peo­ple re­main uniden­ti­fied in Thai­land 12 years on, po­lice said on Mon­day.

The mag­ni­tude-9.1 earthquake trig­gered a tsunami across the In­dian Ocean in one of the big­gest nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in his­tory.

Thai­land, In­done­sia, In­dia and Sri Lanka were among the worst hit coun­tries. About 5,400 peo­ple were killed in Thai­land, among them about 2,000 for­eign tourists.

“Since the 2004 tsunami, au­thor­i­ties have con­tacted be­tween 4,000 to 5,000 rel­a­tives to come and re­ceive bod­ies. There are about 400 bod­ies that we can­not iden­tify,” said Anand Boonkerkaew, deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of Takua Pa district po­lice in Phang Nga prov­ince.

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