THE families of thousands of victims who perished in the tsunami which devastated Aceh, Indonesia 12 years ago today, prayed for their loved ones at mass graves and mosques in the province on Monday to mark one of the worst natural disasters in modern history.
According to the AFP, crowds began to gather across the province, including in Siron in the Aceh Besar district of the predominantly Muslim province in the northern tip of Sumatra island, where over 46,000 were buried, scattering flowers on unmarked graves where they believe their loved ones were laid to rest.
The 9.15 magnitude Dec 26 earthquake triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean, killing 226,000 people in one of the biggest natural disasters in history.
A 64-year-old woman Maryam, who only goes by one name and who was met at the Ulee Lheue mass grave where 14,800 people were buried, was quoted by the AFP as saying: “I came here every year to pray for my children, daughter-in-law, and their three children.”
Maryam, who survived the disaster by holding on to a tree trunk, said the remains of her family members were not found but she was certain they were among those buried in the mass grave as it was in the vicinity of where they lived during the tsunami.
The Ulee Lheue mosque, one of the few sea-front mosques still standing after being hit by the tsunami also received a high number of survivors who held a mass prayer there.
“The main reason to commemorate the earthquake and tsunami disaster was not to open old wounds,” acting Aceh governor Soedarmo said during the gathering at the mosque, as quoted by the AFP.
A Reuters report said that at least 400 victims of Asia’s 2004 tsunami who were killed in the tragedy remain unidentified in Thailand 12 years on, police said on Monday.
Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka were among the worst hit countries. Some 5,395 people were killed in Thailand, among them about 2,000 foreign tourists.
“Since the 2004 tsunami, authorities have contacted between 4,000 to 5,000 relatives to come and receive bodies. There are about 400 bodies that we cannot identify,” Anand Boonkerkaew, deputy superintendent of Takua Pa district police in Phang Nga province, told Reuters.
Thailand’s tourist high season is in full swing and in much of the area affected by the tsunami, it is business as usual. New hotels have replaced those flattened by the wall of water.
Thailand expects a record 32.4 million foreign tourists this year.
Critics have said Thailand’s tsunami warning system remains inadequate, partly because it isn’t maintained properly, however, the government claims it is in good order.
Additional reporting by Reuters