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Memorials Held To Mark Indian Ocean Tsunami Anniversary

  • RFE/RL

A muted ceremony in Thailand has ended a day of commemorations across Asia marking a decade since the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people.

The evening remembrance in the capital, Bangkok, was attended by representatives from over 30 countries, including UN emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos and Czech model Petra Nemcova, who survived the 2004 tsunami.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha paid a tribute to the victims.

"The great loss at that time is a reminder that everyone should be well prepared for natural disasters and to learn how to protect themselves, lessen the damage and losses [in the future], as well as enhance an efficient warning system and disaster mitigation efforts," he said.

The catastrophe took place when a massive underwater earthquake on December 26, 2004 set off colossal waves that killed tens of thousands of people and decimated coastal communities in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and beyond.

The sea rose as high as 10 meters and surged inland for kilometers, carrying along trees, houses, and train carriages.

Many victims were never found or never identified, and more than 1 million people were left homeless.

The wave swept the whole of the Indian Ocean's shoreline, even reaching as far as the East African nations of Somalia, Tanzania, and Kenya.

The deadly waves ravaged coastline ecosystems and unleashed chemical pollution.

The Indonesian province of Aceh, close to the quake epicenter, bore the brunt of the devastation, with dozens of villages wiped from the map and at least 168,000 people left dead.

In Aceh's provincial capital, Banda Aceh, Vice President Jusuf Kalla led tributes to the dead at the Siron mass grave, thanking local volunteers and the outside world for helping the province recover from the tragedy.

Earlier, thousands of people gathered at the city's Great Mosque to attend a memorial for the victims.

In southern Thailand, where half of the 5,300 dead were foreign tourists, people laid flowers at a memorial wall displaying names of the victims in the fishing village of Ban Nam Khem.

In Sri Lanka, a commemorative train journey for tsunami survivors and their families ran from the capital, Colombo, and arrived in Pereliya in the south.

More than 1,400 people lost their lives on the same journey when a crowded train was hit by tsunami waves.

The international community has poured money and expertise into relief and reconstruction, with more than $13.5 billion collected in the months after the tsunami.

The disaster also prompted the establishment of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, and AFP