Nine Years After Tsunami, Wounds Still Fresh in Aceh

Four kids playing during a prayers to mark nine year of tsunami at PLTD Apung in Banda Aceh on 26 December 2013

Banda Aceh, TAG –  The people of Aceh on 26 December 2013 paid their respects to the more than 170,000 people who perished nine years ago when a 9.3 magnitude earthquake caused a massive tsunami to sweep through the region, leaving a path of devastation in its wake and turning the eyes of the world upon the province.

The provincial government, flying their flags at half-mast, held the nine-year commemoration event at Ratu Safiatuddin park, where thousands of locals, government officials and students took part.
Arie Ginanjar Agustian, a well-known Indonesian motivational speaker, led prayers and gave a speech, while Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, the deputy mayor of Banda Aceh, also spoke, as did Aceh Deputy Governor Muzakir Manaf and Administrative Reform Minister Azwar Abubakar. Azwar was the acting governor when the disaster took place on Dec 26, 2004.
Hundreds of people also prayed at the Ulee Lheue mass cemetery, where 14,264 victims were buried.
Hera Fazra, 20, a college student at Ar-Raniry State Islamic University, said she came to the cemetery to pray for three of her relatives killed in the disaster.
“Their bodies were never found,” she said.
Her immediate family, though, was able to survive the tsunami since their house was far from the ocean.
“We ran to the mountains when the disaster struck,” she said. “Now, when there are big earthquakes, my family and I always retreat to areas far away from the sea, because we are still traumatized by the tsunami.”
Assessing the province’s present condition, Hera said she appreciated how much Aceh has improved since 2004. Life is better nowadays, she said, since the main roads are in good shape, especially the 145 kilometer road from Banda Aceh to Calang, the capital city of Aceh Jaya district, built with the support of USAID.
Nanda Suhada, 29, a contract worker with the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, said that when the disaster struck, he was on his way to his college campus. He returned to his house in Peukan Bada sub-district, Aceh Besar, at 3 p.m. to find his father, brother and grandmother killed by the wave. His brother and mother managed to save themselves by fleeing to the Gle Geunteng mountains.
“The tsunami is something that I can never forget because it was so extraordinary,” he said, “I always recall the disaster. If there are big quakes, every villager runs to the mountains to save themselves because they are worried about another tsunami occurring.”
Nanda has since become a tour guide for the PLTD Apung, an electric generator ship owned by state electric company PLN that has become a monument to the tragedy in Banda Aceh. Although the ship weighed 2,600 tons, the tsunami forced it to three kilometers inland. It now sits in the capital city, a constant reminder of the tsunami’s power, and attracts several hundred visitors per year.
Prayers were held next to the PLTD Apung, and thousands of people in white shed tears in remembrance of their love ones taken by the tsunami.
Mariana, 40, said she could not contain her emotions during the memorial.
“I remember my family who died during the tsunami,” she said, adding that she lost 14 members of her family that day.
Acehnese fishermen abstained from taking to the seas today in honor of the dead and joined the masses to pray for the province’s fallen.
“It was a historical day, because it will never be forgotten when Allah issued a warning to humans,” Tabrani, an Acehnese sea commander with Panglima Laot (a traditional organization of fishermen in Aceh) in Lhok Krueng, said.
“Most of the tsunami victims were fishermen and their families. Let us perform dhikr [the recitation of God’s name] and pray for all of our loved ones.
On Dec. 26, 2004, the massive 9.3-magnitude earthquake hit the Indian Ocean just west of the northern tip of Aceh.
The epicenter of the quake was located some 160 kilometers west of Aceh. The tremor 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.[]
Nine Years After Tsunami, Wounds Still Fresh in Aceh Nine Years After Tsunami, Wounds Still Fresh in Aceh Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on January 05, 2014 Rating: 5

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