People across Southeast Asia gathered along the shores of the Indian Ocean on Friday to mark the 10th anniversary of the devastating tsunami of 2004.
One of the deadliest natural disasters in modern history, it killed 230,000 people and displaced millions in 12 countries.
Services were held to remember the dead in countries including Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka. Moments of silence were planned in several locations to mark the exact time the tsunami hit.
“I cannot forget the smell of the air, the water at that time … even after 10 years,” Teuku Ahmad Salman said at a prayer service attended by thousands of people in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
Sobbing, the 51-year-old said: “I cannot forget how I lost hold of my wife, my kids, my house.”
He said he refused to believe for years that his family had died, but eventually gave up looking for them.
The disaster was triggered by a magnitude-9.1 earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra that displaced billions of tons of water and created waves eyewitnesses said were up to 100 feet.
In Indonesia, the worst-hit country, the death toll exceeded 170,000. More than 5,000 people were killed in Thailand, about half of them tourists visiting the country’s beach resorts.
Nearly 2,000 people were killed In Sri Lanka when a passenger train was swept from its tracks. The train was later recovered and restored, and it was boarded by survivors Friday for a symbolic recreation of the journey.
Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla led a prayer ceremony in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, in the north of Sumatra, on Friday. Devastation in that area was the greatest.
“Here in this field 10 years ago … we tearfully saw thousands of corpses lying,” he said. “No words can describe our human feelings at that time — confused, shocked, sad, scared — in seeing the suffering of the people in Aceh,” he said. “But we could not remain in sadness, Aceh had to rise again, and all Indonesians in this archipelago helped, people all over the world offered their assistance.”
“In this moment, we also say thanks to the world, which has helped Aceh from the post-disaster condition 10 years ago,” he said.
Following the disaster, the international community pledged more than $ 14 billion in aid, making it the largest emergency relief response in history, according to UNICEF, the U.N. humanitarian aid agency.
Thousands of people earlier gathered at the Great Mosque in Banda Aceh, the BBC reported. Asman Ismail, the mosque’s imam, said the disaster had taught Aceh, where an armed conflict with guerrilla fighters endured for nearly three decades, a “valuable lesson,” the broadcaster said.
“After the tsunami, no-one fights against each other, people live in harmony and peace till this day,” he said, according to the BBC.
Contributing: Associated Press
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