Prayers mark tsunami anniversary

Sombre ceremonies held in Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka

Prayers mark tsunami anniversary

 
Villagers place white roses during the anniversary of the tsunami at the Bann Nam Khem Tsunami Memorial Park in Thailand’s Phang Nga province on Saturday.  ReutersThe devastating December 26, 2004, tsunami struck a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean rim. Its towering waves wiped out entire coastal communities, devastated families and crashed over tourist-filled beaches the morning after Christmas. Survivors waded through a horror show of corpse-filled waters.

In Thailand, hundreds of residents and foreigners returned to the beaches on the island of Phuket to recall one of the worst natural disasters of modern times.

A moment of silence was observed on Phuket’s Patong Beach, a popular strip of hotels and restaurants, to mark the moment the tsunami struck.

Buddhist monks in bright orange robes chanted prayers. Onlookers wept and embraced.
Giorgio Capriccioli, an Italian who lives on Phuket, carried a bouquet of white flowers into the ocean. He waded knee-deep in water that five years ago was clogged with corpses and cast the flowers adrift to honour the memory of two friends.

The ceremonies on Phuket were to culminate in the evening with candle-lighting ceremonies and the release of hundreds of light-filled lanterns into the sky.

Thousands of survivors in Indonesia’s Aceh province, which was hardest-hit, held prayer services at mosques and beside the mass graves where tens of thousands were buried. Indonesia’s loss of about 1,67,000 accounted for more than half the total death toll. The tsunami was sparked by a 9.2-magnitude underwater earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra — the mightiest earthquake in 40 years.

More than $13 billion in aid money poured in from around the world, nearly half for Aceh, where bridges, homes and full city blocks of cement buildings had collapsed. In some communities of the devout Muslim province only the mosque was left standing.

A huge reconstruction effort has rebuilt Aceh, providing more than 1,40,000 new homes, 3,585 kilometers of roads, 1,500 schools and 1,047 hospitals.

Traffic across Sri Lanka came to a standstill on Saturday as people around the country observed two minutes of silence for the 35,000 people who died there.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake presided over a ceremony in northwestern Kurunegala that was broadcast on live television.

Quake in Jakarta

A strong earthquake struck deep under the sea in eastern Indonesia on Saturday, on the fifth anniversary of the tsunami, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, reports AP from Jakarta. 

The earthquake was of a preliminary magnitude of 6.0. It was at a depth of 57 kilometres, too far below the earth’s surface to cause a tsunami.  

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