Candles, vigils and poems to remember tsunami

Some will light candles after travelling long distances to where loved ones were snatched; others might offer simple prayers. But across nations ravaged by the tsunami, all will remember.

Memorials will on Monday mark the one-year anniversary of the day the ocean rose and smashed into coastlines around Indian Ocean countries, killing more than 220 000 people and altering forever the lives of millions more.

In Indonesia’s Aceh province, where the tsunami claimed about 168 000 victims, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is to preside over a ceremony beginning at 8.16am local time, the precise time the first wave hit shore.

Representatives from more than 88 countries are expected to attend the event in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh. Yudhoyono is also due to sound sirens that are part of an early-warning system being put in place in a bid to prevent a repeat tragedy.

The president will attend a mass prayer meeting at the town’s main mosque in the evening.
It was here that dead bodies were piled after they were collected from the town’s debris-packed streets as survivors and rescuers were overwhelmed by the massive scale of the disaster.

In Jakarta, the capital of the world’s most populous Muslim nation, people have been invited to attend a march that will culminate with prayers for the victims.

Activities in Sri Lanka, which lists about 31 000 people dead, will focus on Telwatte, where a train was engulfed by the waves, killing more than 1 000 in the world’s worst-ever rail disaster.

President Mahinda Rajapakse will make an address to the nation from the site. The country’s tourism board has also organised vigils at the coastal town of Bentota.

An array of events are planned in Thailand, where 2 436 foreigners hailing from 37 countries were among the nearly 5 400 dead.

About 1 200 foreigners—relatives of victims as well as survivors of the tsunami—are due to fly in after accepting the Thai government’s invitation for free flights and accommodation.

About 5 000 Thais are also expected to attend.

Morning memorial services are to be held simultaneously at seven locations across the worst-hit beaches, including on Phuket and Phi Phi Island. A minute’s silence will be observed at 10.10am local time, the moment the water hit here as the waves radiated for thousands of kilometres.

In the afternoon, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will lay a foundation stone for a tsunami memorial in Phang Nga province, to be attended by next-of-kin and other invitees only.

Buddhist and Brahmin ceremonies, along with musical performances and the unveiling of “tsunami” sculptures, will also take place.

Phang Nga was the hardest-hit area of six provinces struck by the killer waves, where about 80% of Thailand’s dead were located.

In the evening, an interfaith memorial service will be held for Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. Tilly Smith, a British girl credited with saving at least 100 lives after warning people that a tsunami was coming, and Patiwat Komkla, a Thai boy who lost his father, will read poems.

A second minute’s silence is to be observed and those attending will be given white, lotus-shaped candles. The ceremony will end with the release of 5 000 floating lanterns into the sky.—Sapa-AFP

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