Indonesia marks tsunami anniversary amid tragedy

Indonesia on Tuesday marked the second anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 168 000 people in Aceh as the province suffered a new disaster.

Aceh bore the brunt of the massive tsunami triggered by a 9,3-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra island in 2004.

The towering wall of water destroyed more than 800km of Aceh’s coastline, killing more than 168 000 people and leaving more than 600 000 homeless.

Across the province, residents were gathering on Tuesday at mosques for small private ceremonies to commemorate loved ones killed two years ago.

Commemorations were made even more sombre with the province struggling with a fresh disaster.

Flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rains have killed 110 people across the north of Sumatra and forced 300 000 to flee, with Aceh again the worst hit.

Some had little time to remember loved ones killed by the tsunami as they fled to escape the torrents of murky brown water that swallowed their homes and villages.

Nigia had to leave her house Saturday evening when the water levels suddenly rose, submerging her house in Arakundo village in Aceh.

“I am sad that I have to leave home. I lost my cousin and many other family members during the tsunami,” she said.

On the resort island of Bali, which was not touched by the tsunami, about 10 000 residents held a tsunami drill.

Such exercises and a new Indian Ocean tsunami warning system are intended to help prevent a repeat of the December 26 2004 disaster.

Two years after the catastrophe, a massive reconstruction effort is under way, funded by the billions of dollars that flooded in from around the world in an unprecedented outpouring of generosity.

“The reconstruction and peace process in Aceh is a work in progress, but it is a story the whole world can learn from,” World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz wrote in Tuesday’s edition of the Jakarta Post.

“It’s a story of how humanity can prevail and triumph after a tragedy of unparalleled scale.”

United Nations special envoy for tsunami recovery Bill Clinton stressed that the effort would need to continue for years to come.

“As we have learned in other parts of the world in the wake of disasters of this scale—from Kobe to New Orleans, Tangshan to Bam—rebuilding the physical, social and human capital of shattered communities takes years,” the former United States president said in a report on lessons learned from the disaster.

Amid the destruction, the tsunami unexpectedly provided the impetus for a peace deal between the Indonesian government and separatist rebels to end a 29-year insurgency in the resource-rich province.

Aceh held its first democratic elections for provincial governor earlier in December, with a former rebel poised to win in polls seen as further consolidation of the peace process.—AFP

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