In­done­sia marks tsunami 12 years ago with prayers

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BANDA ACEH, In­done­sia: Thou­sands of In­done­sians prayed for their loved ones at mass graves and mosques yes­ter­day to mark a tsunami which dev­as­tated Aceh prov­ince 12 years ago to­day, one of the worst nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in hu­man his­tory.

Some 170,000 lives were lost in the coun­try when a 9.1-mag­ni­tude “megath­rust” quake struck Aceh, a pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim 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, told AFP, at the Ulee Lheue mass grave, where 14,800 peo­ple were buried.

The bod­ies of her fam­ily were never found but 65-year-old 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 of the tsunami. 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 sea-front 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 6.5-mag­ni­tude shal­low quake struck in­land in Pi­die Jaya, a district in Aceh, killing more than 100 peo­ple, lev­el­ling hun­dreds of build­ings and dis­plac­ing nearly 84,000 peo­ple.

400 bod­ies uniden­ti­fied

At least 400 vic­tims of Asia’s 2004 tsunami that killed 226,000 peo­ple remain uniden­ti­fied in Thai­land 12 years on, po­lice said yes­ter­day. The 9.15 mag­ni­tude Dec. 26 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. Some 5,395 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,” Anand Boonkerkaew, deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of Takua Pa district po­lice in Phang Nga prov­ince, told Reuters.

Thai­land’s tourist high sea­son is in full swing and in much of the area af­fected by the tsunami, it is busi­ness as usual. New ho­tels have re­placed those flat­tened by the wall of wa­ter. Thai­land ex­pects a record 32.4 mil­lion for­eign tourists this year. Crit­ics have said Thai­land’s tsunami warn­ing sys­tem re­mains in­ad­e­quate, partly be­cause it isn’t main­tained prop­erly. The gov­ern­ment has said it is in good or­der. — Reuters

A woman wipes her tears as she offers prayers to loved ones at a mass grave in Aceh yes­ter­day to mark the tsunami which dev­as­tated Aceh prov­ince 12 years ago in one of the worst nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in hu­man his­tory. — AFP

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