Indian Ocean tsunami anniversary: Memorial events held – BBC News

Acehnese women attend a prayer for the victims of Indian Ocean tsunami ahead of its 10th anniversary at Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, Indonesia

Laura Westbrook reports on a region remembering those lost a decade ago

Memorial services are being held in Indonesia and other nations for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami on the 10th anniversary of the disaster.

In Indonesia’s province of Aceh – the worst hit area – Vice-President Jusuf Kalla led tributes to the dead at the Siron mass grave.

Memorial ceremonies also take place in Thailand and Sri Lanka.

More than 200,000 people died when an underwater earthquake set off massive waves on 26 December 2004.

In Aceh’s capital, Banda Aceh, Mr Kalla thanked local volunteers and the outside world for helping Aceh recover from the tragedy. He also presented awards to ambassadors from the donor nations.

A woman cries at a mass grave in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Photo: 26 December 2014In Indonesia’s Aceh province, people prayed at a mass grave where many tsunami victims are buried
A Thai relative of a tsunami victim places roses on the Ban Nam Khem tsunami memorial park wall on the tenth anniversary of the 2004 tsunami in Phang-nga province on December 26, 2014Thousands of Thais died in the disaster, along with hundreds of sun-seeking European visitors
Relatives and friends of German victims of the Asian tsunami lay white roses on the beach during a commemoration and religious ceremony for German, Austrian and Swiss victims in Khao Lak, Thailand, Friday, Dec. 26, 2014A commemoration and religious ceremony for German, Austrian and Swiss victims was held in Khao Lak beach in Thailand
Sri Lankan railway employees place flags on a train compartment that was swept away during the 2004 tsunami and later retrieved and restored, as the Ocean Queen Express prepares to set off from the Colombo Fort railway station in Colombo on December 26, 2014In Sri Lanka, the Ocean Queen Express – or the “tsunami train” – has become a symbol of the tragedy

Earlier, thousands of people earlier gathered at the city’s Great Mosque – a 19th Century building that was one of the few structures in the town to survive the tsunami.

The mosque’s imam, Asman Ismail, said the tsunami had taught a “valuable lesson” to Aceh, which had been the scene of an armed conflict for nearly 30 years.

“After the tsunami, no-one fights against each other, people live in harmony and peace till this day,” he said.

Efforts to end the conflict resumed after the tsunami, culminating in a peace deal between the government and the rebels in August 2005.


Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004


Magnitude quake


People killed – likely more

  • Quake fault line extended 1,500km

  • Rupture lasted about 10 secs

  • Tsunami waves reached 20-30m

Source: USGS, Tectonics Observatory at the California Institute of Technology


More: Images of the devastation then and now


In Thailand, people are marking the anniversary with a series of solemn events and religious rites throughout the day.

In the small fishing village of Ban Nam Khem, Phang Nga province, people have been laying flowers at a memorial wall displaying names of the victims.

The village was devastated by the massive waves.

Nearly 5,500 people died in Thailand, including many tourists from European countries.

In Sri Lanka, the Ocean Queen Express train – which has become a symbol of the tragedy for the nation – will be at the centre of commemorative events.

The overcrowded train was hit by the tsunami south of the capital Colombo. More than 1,700 people died, in what was the world’s biggest rail disaster.

The strength of the quake off Indonesia’s coast – the biggest tremor in the world since 1964 – unleashed giant waves that rushed across the Indian Ocean.

The tsunami also hit Bangladesh, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Maldives and later reached the east African nations’ of Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania.

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