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Thousands in Indonesia mark 15th anniversary of tsunami with prayers

The massive tsunami on December 26 2004, triggered by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra, killed about 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

People read the Koran as they pray at a mass grave site for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, on 15th anniversary of the disaster in Banda Aceh, Indonesia (Nurhasanah/AP)
People read the Koran as they pray at a mass grave site for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, on 15th anniversary of the disaster in Banda Aceh, Indonesia (Nurhasanah/AP)

By Yayan Zamzami and Niniek Karmini

Thousands of people knelt in prayer in Indonesia’s Aceh province on Thursday at ceremonies marking the 15th anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami, one of modern history’s worst natural disasters.

The massive tsunami on December 26 2004 was triggered by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island.

The giant wall of water killed about 230,000 people in a dozen countries as far away as East Africa.

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A woman pours water at a stone marking the mass grave for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami 15 years ago (Nurhasanah/AP)

Indonesia’s Aceh province, which was closest to the earthquake, was hit first and hardest.

More than 170,000 people died in Indonesia alone, about three-quarters of the overall death toll.

“No words can describe our feelings when we tearfully saw thousands of corpses lying on this ground 15 years ago,” acting Aceh Governor Nova Iriansyah said at a ceremony in Sigli, a town in Pidie district.

“And now, we can see how people in Aceh were able to overcome suffering and rise again, thanks to assistance from all Indonesians and from people all over the world.”

Weeping survivors and others attended religious services and memorial ceremonies.

Relatives of the dead and religious and community leaders laid flowers at mass graves of tsunami victims in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.

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A woman prays at a mass grave for the victims of Indian Ocean tsunami on December 26 2004 (Nurhasanah/AP)

Shops and offices were closed, boats were not allowed to sail, and flags were flown at half-mast throughout Aceh on Thursday and Friday.

Disaster-prone Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands that is home to 260 million people, lies along the “Ring of Fire”, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

Thursday’s commemoration came four days after the anniversary of last year’s Sunda Strait tsunami, which followed the eruption and partial collapse of the Anak Krakatau volcano.

That tsunami struck coastal regions of Banten on Indonesia’s main island of Java and parts of southern Sumatra island, leaving more than 400 people dead and 14,000 injured.

PA

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