Asian nations remember the 230,000 killed in the 2004 Indian Ocean
INDONESIA: Thousands of people fled beaches on Indonesia's
resort island of Bali in a tsunami drill Tuesday, kicking off
remembrances across Asia two years after devastating waves crashed into
coastlines, killing 230,000 people and leaving millions homeless.
Elsewhere, survivors and mourners were marking the anniversary by
visiting mass graves, lighting candles along beaches, observing a moment
of silence and erecting warning towers in hopes of saving lives in the
Some volunteers were preparing to plant mangroves, saying they were
key to protecting coastal communities.
The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that ripped apart the ocean floor off
Indonesia's Sumatra island on Dec. 26, 2004 spawned giant waves that
fanned out across the Indian Ocean at jetliner speeds, causing death and
destruction in a dozen countries.
Walls of water two stories high swept entire villages to sea in
Indonesia and Sri Lanka, submerged luxury resorts and fishing
communities in Thailand and destroyed thousands of homes in India.
The drill Tuesday - which involved real-time warnings sent from the
capital to radios along the beach - was as much about raising awareness
as testing technology deployed in the country hardest hit two years ago.
Nearly 167,000 of those killed were from Aceh province - hundreds of
kilometers (miles) from Bali - where tens of thousands of people still
live in temporary homes.
Sirens wailed as masses, many of them school children, briskly walked
inland from the shore, accompanied by Indonesia's minister of research
and technology and a handful of foreign tourists.
"The biggest challenge is working with the people to make them
aware," said German geologist Harald Spahn, who is helping Indonesia set
up its alert network. "It is a really complex job that many people
Meanwhile in the tranquil morning light, survivors and relatives of
those killed in the tsunami exactly two years ago gathered Tuesday to
pay a quiet but moving tribute to the dead. As dawn broke, some threw
flowers out to sea, while others stood silently to remember the 5,400
victims, half of whom were tourists, claimed by the waves on the
southern Thai coast on December 26, 2004.
At about 9:30 am (0230 GMT), the first of the day's memorials began,
with religious leaders presiding over a multi-faith ceremony in Ban Nam
Khem fishing village, attended by some 500 mourners.
A similar event took place on Phuket's Patong beach, drawing about
1,000 tourists and locals. "I lost my father and his wife and my brother
two years ago," said Linda Sander, 22, from Sweden.
"I feel strange. I don't understand what the ceremony is about, but
we are staying at the same hotel they stayed, so it is nice," said
Sander, who was one of a handful of foreigners who attended the Ban Nam
"I will attend every ceremony held today," she said.
In Thailand, ceremonies were planned in Phuket, Ban Nam Khem and
other villages affected by the disaster.
In the evening, King Bhumibol Adulyadej's daughter Princess
Ubolratana, who lost her son in the tsunami, will preside over a candle
light ceremony in Bang Nieng.
But in contrast to last year, when television crews invaded the
beaches as hundreds of foreign relatives paid their respects, this year
has been more low key. Across Thailand's coast, reconstruction has
mostly been swift, particularly in tourist areas like Phuket and
villages like Ban Nam Khem, which became a symbol of the devastation
suffered in Thailand.
But the reconstruction work has not reached everyone. On Khao Lak
beach, many smaller hotels remain in ruins, with owners lacking the
funds to rebuild.
Thailand on Monday also said it would investigate alleged misuse of
money donated by the United States and six European nations to help
identify victims of the tsunami.
In India, where another 18,000 are believe to have died, interfaith
ceremonies were being be held and in Malaysia, where 69 people were
killed, volunteers were preparing to replant mangroves, saying the
tsunami demonstrated how important the coastal forests can be in
The 2004 tsunami generated an unprecedented outpouring of generosity,
with donor pledges reaching some US$13.6 billion (euro10.31 billion),
but many of those homeless complain they are stuck with poorly built
structures that leak, are termite-infested or located in flood zones.
Corruption has also marred the process, with several nongovernment
organizations forced to delay projects or rebuild homes after
contractors and suppliers ran off with the funds.
Bali, Ban Nam Khem, Tuesday, AP, AFP