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Aceh Marks 8 Years Tsunami

BY NURDIN HASAN (THE JAKARTA GLOBE)
Acehnese women pray during the eighth years tsunami anniversary at Malahayati Harbor in Krueng Raya, Aceh Besar
 on Wednesday, December 26, 2012 PHOTO - NURDIN HASAN

Banda Aceh, TAG –  The people of Aceh on Wednesday solemnly marked the eighth anniversary of the devastating earthquake-triggered tsunami that killed some 170,00 people in the Indonesia’s western most province in 2004. The day was marked with joint prayers, visits to the many mass graves, art performances and film screenings on disaster preparedness.
The main commemoration, attended by thousands of people, was held at the Malahayati Harbor in Krueng Raya, Aceh Besar district, some 30 kilometers north of the capital Banda Aceh.
“Aceh is not the only region that has the potential to be hit by disaster. Almost all of Indonesia has the potential to be hit by disaster,” Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah said, adding that the ceremony was not intended to reopen old wounds, but to remind the people of Aceh to be more aware of disasters and better prepared to face them.
He said tsunamis and earthquakes were not the only type of disasters that could hit Aceh, citing floods and landslides as equally threatening and blaming humans for contributing to the causes of natural disasters.
“In their greed, humans have destroyed forests, seas, lakes, and others, so that the balance of nature is affected,” Zaini said, adding that those acts reflected “man’s lack of care for nature.”
He called on all to step up alertness and guard against potential disasters by gaining a better understanding of the factors involved in the various threats. He said the public, at the subdistrict level, should form disaster-focused communities to further educate the population and help mitigate natural disasters’ impacts.
Speaking during the commemoration, Faizal Adriansyah of the Indonesian Association of Geologists said the 2004 disaster should provide a lesson to all of Indonesia.
“We cannot possibly be free from disaster, as our region is a disaster-prone one, but most important is that we should live along with disaster, always alert in facing disasters with disaster mitigation efforts when they take place,” the association head said.
Faizal added that while no one was hoping that disaster struck, disaster mitigation efforts were crucial nonetheless to help reduce the number of victims in such circumstances.
Faizal cited the case of the people of Simeulue islands, whose local wisdom in dealing with earthquakes and tsunamis was credited with saving many lives in 2004, when Simeulue saw remarkably few casualties despite its coastal population.
“We should always be prepared and turn to local wisdom in our lives,” he said.
Inhabitants of quake-prone Simeulue are taught to immediately leave buildings and flee to higher ground when tremors are felt.
The commemoration at Malahayati was also attended by eight teachers from the Miyuko state high school in the Japanese prefecture of Iwate.
Osagawara Jun, speaking for the group, said they had intentionally come to Aceh to bring the Acehnese’s fighting spirit for survival back to their children in Japan, who were victims of a major tsunami themselves in March 2011.
“I myself also experienced the strong earthquake and the big tsunami on March 11 last year. From the second flood of my school, I could see the black wall of water coming. Many died and many have also remained missing since,” Osagawara said.
He said his region was still recovering after the tsunami and added that by working hand in hand, the two disaster-stricken peoples could build a better future.
“Share your smile with us, let us together fight for a better future,” he said.
He added that both Indonesia and Japan had suffered incalculable losses because of major earthquakes and tsunamis over the years.
“The sadness and bitterness cannot be healed, even with time,” he said.
But time appears to have helped heal many of Aceh’s wounds, and few tears were shed as Tengku Jamaluddin Wali, a leading Aceh ulema, led a joint prayer for those who lost their lives in the 2004 disaster.
Prayers were also held at mosques across Aceh and many also brought flowers and their prayers to the mass graves for the unidentified tsunami victims scattered along the north and western coasts of Aceh.
At the Tsunami Museum in Banda Aceh, 39 communities of creative youths also held a joint prayer, followed by a poetry reading, art performances and the screening of documentaries on disaster mitigation. That event was also attended by thousands of people.
On Dec. 26, 2004, a massive 9.3-magnitude earthquake hit the Indian Ocean just west of the northern tip of Aceh.
The epicenter of the quake was some 160 kilometers west of Aceh and it sent devastating tsunami waves across the region, reaching as far as Africa’s eastern coast.
The tsunami killed some 230,000 people in 14 countries along the rim of the Indian Ocean, some 170,000 of whom were killed in Aceh.[]

Aceh Marks 8 Years Tsunami Aceh Marks 8 Years Tsunami Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on December 27, 2012 Rating: 5

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