World marks 10 years since Asia tsunami

Memorial services held for 220,000 people killed after underwater earthquake set off massive waves across Indian Ocean.

Beachside memorials and religious services have been held across Asia to mark the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 220,000 in one of modern history’s worst natural disasters.

The devastating December 26, 2004, tsunami, triggered by a 9.3-magnitude earthquake, struck a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean rim.

It eradicated entire coastal communities, decimated families and crashed over beaches full of tourists the morning after Christmas.

Survivors waded through a horror show of corpse-filled waters.

As part of Friday’s solemn commemorations, survivors, government officials, diplomats and families of victims gathered in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and elsewhere.

Moments of silence were planned in several spots to mark the exact time the tsunami struck.

2004 Tsunami
A 9.3 earthquake off Indonesia triggered the tsunami that killed at least 220,000 people

Indonesia: 170,000 
Sri Lanka: 31,000 
India: 16,400 
Thailand: 5,400 
Other Asian countries: 200 
East Africa: 300

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Indonesia’s Aceh province, worst affected by the tsunami, said an official ceremony there would would be attended by the vice president.

“There will be prayers, songs and poetry but most importantly most of the survivors will have their own commemoration services. They will have their prayer sessions in their villages, sometimes villages very near to the sea where they can remember what happened ten years ago,” she said.

Aceh was the closest to the earthquake epicentre. At least 170,000 people were killed there.

Sri Lanka is marking the anniversary with a symbolic ride of a train the tsunami had derailed, killing 1,270 passengers.

The train will be powered by the same locomotive and feature five of the original carriages.

In Thailand, 5,395 people were killed, among them about 2,000 foreign tourists. Almost 3,000 people remain missing.

RELATED: The Thai village that escaped the tsunami

Al Jazeera’s Veronica Pedrosa, reporting from Khao Lak, said the Swedish government is organising a commemoration at the Orchid resort.

Tsunami-hit Aceh in 2004 and 2014

She said “543 Swedes were killed at this resort alone”.

“It is indeed a very difficult moment and I think that’s what’s different about the way it’s being commemorated here in Thailand, that so many people from all over the world were here because they were foreign tourists,” she said.

Thai commemoration ceremonies will be held in several other locations, including Ban Nam Khem, a southern fishing village destroyed by the wave.

Government agencies and several non-governmental organisations responded to the disaster across the region by building houses for the victims and providing fishing gear and trawlers to fishermen. But the help does not seem enough. 

Many survivors still struggle and have barely managed to rebuild their lives.

While billions of dollars of aid have poured in, some have regained prosperity but others find their lives still hanging by a thread, and a $400m warning system built to help keep residents safe has been undermined by mismanagement and waste.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies