Saturday, December 27, 2014

TSUNAMI REXAMUNED


y Abu Hanifah
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- Ten years after the powerful tsunami devastated Banda Aceh, people living in the coastal city have bravely faced their future despite their harrowing experience and the loss of their loved ones.
Banda Aceh was the worst hit by the powerful tsunami that smashed the coastal areas facing the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26, 2004, wrecking havoc on half of the city and killing about 200,000 people in Aceh province alone.
Survivors have managed to move on even as they tried to forget their traumatic experience, thanks to rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts financed mainly by international donor countries.
Right after the catastrophe, some 5 billion U.S. dollars were pledged by donor countries for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the coastal villages of the province.
Mairiah, a 32-year-old single mother and survivor of the tragedy, is now back selling snacks to tourists who have come back to visit Ulee Lheuee water sports facility in the city.
Mairiah, who like most Indonesians has only one name, lost 24 of her relatives during the tsunami. She said she is going to raise her four children alone through her small business.
She told Xinhua that she earns about 5 million rupiah (more than 400 U.S. dollars) a month from her business. She said that she used to earn about 30 million rupiah per month before the tsunami.
Mairiah said she was grateful for the new road built by Indonesia's Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) near the coastline that makes it easy for tourists to visit their place.
The tsunami has totally flattened areas around the beach, wrecked the city's most favorite destinations such as white sands and blue waters where tourists used to surf.
Mairiah now lives in a makeshift house provided by provincial government with her four children. She said she would soon move to a permanent house built with funds from donor countries. Her husband died a year ago from acute digestive problem.
Ulee Lheuee now is a quiet and less attractive place as the high waves that were the surfers' favorite are no longer there. The white sand also has been sucked by the giant waves brought by the tsunami.
A three-meter concrete wall has been built by the BRR to prevent waves from directly hitting the beach.
The BRR, that ended its rehabilitation and reconstruction program in 2009, has turned the city into a neat place with a new layout, wider roads, and more amenities for local and foreign tourists.
The city hopes to lure more tourists to visit its beaches just like before the killer tsunami hit the place.
The BRR also coordinated projects to build houses for the survivors, new mosques, new hospital and evacuation centers in anticipation of another tsunami, which international scientific agencies have warned because of the possibility of another powerful undersea earthquake that may occur due to the unstable seabed off the coast of Sumatra.
Among the beneficiaries of the reconstruction efforts of the BRR is Sahawardi, a 34 year-old driver, a survivor of the tsunami.
Sahawardi, a father of three, said that it is now easy for him to drive because the roads linking the capital city to other cities in the province are now wider. The roads in the province used to be narrow and full of potholes.
Sahawardi, who lost his mother in the tsunami, said that the reconstruction program has also improved the supply of power to the city, adding that they now seldom experience power interruptions.
In a talk with Xinhua, Sahawardi said he was driving a minibus when giant waves swept his car. He managed to get out of his vehicle and clang to a large truck that was able to withstand the strong waves.
He said his only regret is that he was not able to find his mother's body, adding that her body might be among those buried in mass graves for the tsunami victims.
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tsunami, the Indonesian government expressed on Friday its profound gratitude to donor countries for their valuable financial assistance in rebuilding the towns and villages of Aceh province and in giving new life and hope for a better future to the thousands of survivors.

The earthquake off Indonesia in the Indian Ocean was one of the most powerful ever recorded. When the subsequent tsunami hit large parts of the Southeast Asian coast hundreds of thousands of people were killed, many more injured and millions homeless.
Ten years later, there is silence on Nang Thong Beach in Khao Lak in southern Thailand.
A man stands out in the water fishing. Others are bathing in the turquoise waters. Others walking on the white sand as the waves lap against the shore.
Khao Lak and Thailand in general remains a very popular holiday destination for many Swedes and some 20,000-30,000 were in the tsunami-hit areas that fateful day.
Almost all of the 543 Swedes who perished that day died in this area when giant waves swept in over the Khao Lak beach shortly after 10 am local time on Boxing Day 2004.
On the tenth anniversary of the tragedy remembrance ceremonies will be held across all the affected countries and on Khao Lak beach Swedes will gather in a service organized by the Swedish embassy and Swedish church.