Indian Ocean tsunami, one year after

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Monday, December 26, 2005 One year on from the Indian Ocean tsunami, the world's grief and compassion returned to the tsunami-battered coastlines of the Indian Ocean, where at least 216 000 people lost their lives. Under a clear sky and before a gentle sea, the world commemorated those lost their lives, in one of the worst natural disasters that the modern world has experienced.

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Since the Indian Ocean tsunami, patchy progress has been made on the return to a normal life for those who lived through the experience. Efforts to implement a warning system similar to that coordinated by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii have past a number of significant milestones. Tourist resorts in many places have been rebuilt, and many visiting them at this time do so as a form of remembrance. Yet still there remain those who may never recover from the tragic events of one year ago. Some $13 billion was pledged to relief and recovery efforts, of which 75 percent has already been secured.

Damage left after the December 2004 tsunami hit Sri Lanka

Banda Aceh

In one of the first ceremonies, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono joined in a moment of silence at the Baiturrahman mosque located in a Banda Aceh coastal suburb flattened by the disaster. Yudhoyono said that "was under the same blue sky, exactly one year ago, that Mother Earth unleashed her most destructive power upon us, The assault began with a massive earthquake but ... that was only a prelude to the horrific catastrophe to come."

In a live video address UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said "The toughest time after last year's devastating tsunami may be yet to come, It was so brutal, so quick, so extensive that we are still struggling to fully comprehend it."

Andaman and Nicobar archipelago

Many of the survivors of the tsunami who live in the Andaman and Nicobar islands have yet to see significant benefits from international relief efforts. Over 10,000 families are having to come to terms with the policies of their government. Whilst local people would be happy to continue with traditional wood and bamboo materials, disputes see the government trying to impose higher standards.

Thailand

In Thailand, the anniversary of the massive wave sees tourists returning and reconstruction of resorts. However, not all is so positive. Many who lost loved ones suffered from Post-traumatic stress disorder, and whilst 75% of those suffering are said to be recovered, those who still suffer may need life-long psychiatric help. In Phang-nga province, the hardest hit part of Thailand, there are around 300 people in that category, their symptoms including a deep-seated fear of the sea. Binge drinking has also become a problem among many who lost everything, including family, when the disaster struck.

The December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hits Thailand

In an attempt to focus on a recovery from the trauma inflicted on the children of Thailand, concerned parties have published a number of children's books aimed at rehabilitating. Sponsored by the Canadian Embassy, The Day the Tsunami Came tells the tale of a boy who loses his father when the wave hit his fishing village in Phanag-nga province. Its aim is to spread the message to those affected that they are not alone. Apart from publication in Thai and English, the book will be available in Swedish, Dutch, Indonesian and Singhalese.

Measures to prevent a recurrence of the massive casualties have been implemented in the year following the tsunami. Earlier this month Thailand's tsunami early warning system passed its first official test. National Disaster Warning Centre Director Plodprasop Suraswadi stated, "Thailand is the first country in the region to successfully install a comprehensive tsunami early warning system. I believe the system can, from now on, save lives and assets of Thais and international tourists alike". The centre is due to be expanded in the coming year to cover "natural disasters [such] as severe floods, forest fires and even air pollution." Implementation of the tsunami warning system has not all gone according to plan. Earlier in the month a false alarm caused by a technical error panicked tourists and local residents in the six provinces hit by the disaster, Krabi, Phang-nga Phuket, Ranong, Satun and Trang.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and a member of the royal family who lost her son were among those who spoke in the resort island of Phuket, the source of some of the most graphic footage of the incoming waves. Thousands attended ceremonies held in Phuket and other affected parts of the country, observing periods of where flags were lowered to half-mast and bells rung in remembrance.

Some villagers refused to take part saying the rites were expensive, inappropriate, events designed to attract tourists and showcase the government.

Europe

Across Europe; hundreds joined in commemorating those who died. In Sweden, which suffered the highest loss of life for any country outside of Asia, official ceremonies were held, with more Swedes attended ceremonies in Thailand.


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