Asia commemorates tsunami

Two years on survivors mourn as recovery efforts continue

Stranded ship
Two years after the tsunami much work remains to be done [Reuters]


The earthquake that triggered the tsunami lasted eight minutes while the tsunami itself took up to seven hours to travel across the Indian Ocean 

Number of dead and missing (est): 230,000

Number of people displaced: 2,089,883

Number of people who lost their livelihood: 1.5 million

Number of homes destroyed: 392,544

Tsunami survivors in India still living in temporary shelter: 70 per cent

Families in Aceh still in need of new homes: 25,000

Up to $8 billion is expected to be spent on reconstruction by 2009, representing about 1,500 projects by more than 300 agencies

Sources: Oxfam, UN, World Bank

The drill was just one way that survivors across the disaster-zone commemorated the day a 9.3 magnitude earthquake – the most powerful earthquake in the area in 40 years – erupted off the coast of Sumatra, generating a tsunami that crashed ashore in 13 countries.

Walls of water two stories high travelling at speeds as fast as an airliner wiped out villages in Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia and submerged luxury resorts and fishing communities in Thailand.

On Tuesday as commemorations began survivors visited mass graves, lit candles along beaches, chimed temple bells, planted trees and observed moments of silence.

In Indonesia’s Aceh province which bore the brunt of the tsunami’s deadly force, around 167,000 died and entire communities were wiped out..

Two years later tens of thousands still live in temporary homes, many blaming bureaucracy for stalling the reconstruction process.

“The issue of rehousing is still unclear, for those who own their own land and for those who don’t even have any land,” said Andi Mansyur, a refugee in Lhoong Raya district of Banda Aceh, the Acehnese capital.

Oxfam estimates that 48,000 of an anticipated 128,000 homes have been built in Aceh, while 25,000 families remain homeless.

undefined Tourist resorts in Thailand have
rebuilt after the disaster [EPA]

Corruption, misappropriation and the failure to deliver on promised aid have also been blamed for slowing the pace of recovery.

The international community has pledged $13.5 billion for emergency relief and reconstruction in the wake of the tsunami – the largest-ever international response to a natural disaster.

But aid agencies say much of that money has yet to appear in the areas it is needed.

In Thailand, ceremonies were to held along the Andaman coast with Buddhist prayers to remember the more than 8,200 killed.

undefined But in other parts of the region many are still
struggling to rebuild their lives [GALLO/GETTY]

Balloons will be released and candles lit along beaches along beaches where tourists have begun to tread again.

“We hope this will be part of the healing process for those who lost loved ones,” said Chamroen Tankasem, a government official in southern Thailand.

“It will also help us remember what happened, what we have learned since … and what more needs to be done for the people affected.”

In Sri Lanka civil war has affected the pace of recovery and while many remained preoccupied with the conflict on Tuesday, Hindu and Buddhist temples rang bells to mark the moment the first wave hit.

Two minutes of silence followed to remember the country’s 35,000 tsunami victims.

All motor vehicles except ambulances were to stop at the exact moment the waves crashed ashore, 9:25 am.

Sri Lanka also erected the first of 100 coastal warning towers to mark the anniversary.

In India, where some 18,000 people died, interfaith ceremonies were being held.

In Malaysia, where 69 people were killed, volunteers prepared to plant mangroves, saying they were a key to protecting coastal communities.

Source: News Agencies


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