Prayers and Ceremonies Mark 10 Years Since Tsunami

Mourners at the tsunami memorial in Phang Nga province, Thailand, 26 December 2014

BANGKOK (DPA) – A sombre ceremony in Thailand brought to a close a day of remembrance as various countries around the Indian Ocean marked the 10th anniversary of 2004 tsunami that killed some 230,000 people.

The evening ceremony was attended by representatives from over 30 countries as well as thousands who came to offer their condolences.

The event was marked by speeches from dignitaries and poetry and words from survivors and relatives of the dead.

"I salute the courage and bravery of survivors," said Valerie Amos, the UN under secretary general and emergency relief coordinator. Amos also praised the selflessness of those who offered their assistance in the days after the disaster.

"The 2004 tsunami didn't connect just the individuals here but the whole world," said Petra Nemcova, a Czech supermodel and founder of the disaster relief organization Happy Hearts Fund.

Nemcova survived the tsunami by clinging on to a palm tree but lost her fiance during the disaster.

"I was touched by the selflessness of my rescuers who would risk their lives for a complete stranger."

"It was in the worst of occasions that we saw the best of humanity," said Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha who brought the ceremony to a close with a moment's silence and the lighting of candles.

"I want to extend my thanks to those who offered a helping hand and express my condolences to all who lost a loved ones." 

More than 5,000 people lost their lives during the disaster in Thailand, a large percentage of that number were foreign tourists on holiday.

Earlier, in the Indonesian province of Aceh, the area worst hit by the tsunami, an official ceremony was attended by Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

Kalla thanked foreign countries for their involvement in rebuilding Aceh. "I had never seen such extraordinary solidarity and generosity as I saw after the tsunami," Kalla said. 

"Even children from around the world, from Germany to the United States, broke their piggy banks and sent the money to help tsunami victims."  

Indonesia was the hardest hit country, with some 130,000 people losing their lives.

In the morning, people prayed in mosques and at the sites of mass graves to remember their dead.

"I lost two children in the tsunami but I don't know where they were buried," 51-year-old Maimunah, who goes by only one name, said at a mass grave in Ulhee Lhueue in the provincial capital Banda Aceh. "But I'm praying here for all the victims," she said.

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.

Over 1,400 people lost their lives on the same journey when the crowded train was hit by tsunami waves that claimed more than 35,000 lives across the country. The commemorative journey featured repaired carriages from the original train.

A two-minute silence was held throughout the country.

Multi-faith prayers were held on India's Andaman and Nicobar islands, as officials and residents gathered in the capital Port Blair.

On the south-eastern Indian coast in Tamil Nadu's Nagapattinam district, locals prayed at memorial pillars near the beach and floated offerings of food into the sea.

More than 16,000 people died when the tsunami hit India.

Thailand also held morning ceremonies at Ban Nam Khem village in Phangna province, where 2,000 people lost their lives, and the Mai Khao remembrance wall in Phuket.

The cross-denominational events were conducted by Buddhist monks, Christian priests and Muslim imams, to mark a disaster that also killed tourists of many nationalities.

The tsunami that struck on the morning of December 26, 2004, decimated coastal communities and killed 230,000 in over a dozen countries in one of the modern world's worst natural disasters.

 

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