Communities across S.E. Asia commemorated the more than 230,000 victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami this week. The 15th anniversary of one of the world’s most deadly disasters.
On the morning after Christmas Day in 2004, a 9.1 magnitude quake off northern Sumatra island triggered a tsunami with waves as high 57 feet high. They swept over the coastal areas of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and nine other countries.
“The Tsunami still haunts me … I can remember it all the time,” said Suwannee Maliwan, 28. She lost both her parents and five other relatives when the tsunami hit Phang Nga.
“Sometimes I dream that another big wave is coming. I’m still scared,” she said. “Sometimes I want to move somewhere else, but it’s not possible because I was born here. My mom and dad passed away here.”
Memorials were scheduled in the Indonesian province of Aceh, where entire villages were flattened. More than 125,000 people perished in the giant tsunami waves. Since then, the area has been largely rebuilt. With some 25,600 residential, commercial, government and school buildings constructed inside a high-risk zone. A zone that had suffered virtually total devastation in 2004.
Memorials in Southern Thailand
In Southern Thailand, where more than 5,300 people were killed, including tourists a memorial ceremony was held. Officials and survivors called for more awareness and preparedness for disasters.
“The government wants to lift safety standards… and build awareness across all sectors in preparing and protecting people against disasters,” Deputy Interior Minister, Nipon Bunyamanee, said at an opening ceremony. He said Dec. 26 had been designated national accident prevention day.
Officials later laid wreaths at a memorial center in Phang Nga province. Paying tribute to King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s nephew, Bhumi Jensen. He was last seen jet-skiing off the coast when the tsunami hit.
An interfaith service for Muslim, Christian and Buddhist victims was also held.
Survivors from Ban Nam Khem, the worst hit Thai village, held a candlelight vigil in the evening. At least 1,400 people were killed when tsunami waves struck the village.
In India, where more than 10,000 people died in the devastating tsunami. Survivors also were to hold memorial ceremonies. More than 35,000 people died in Sri Lanka.