The Daily Fix: A Decade After Disaster, Tsunami-Hit Nations Remember Past
Many of the nations hit hardest by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami held memorial services for the victims Friday, marking the 10-year anniversary of the deadliest natural disaster in recorded history.
The 9.1-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami were responsible for the deaths of nearly 230,000 people across 14 nations.
In Banda Aceh, Indonesia—one of the worst-hit cities—Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla led tributes to the dead at the Siron mass grave, and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha laid a wreath of remembrance, according to BBC News.
“Thousands of corpses were sprawled in this field,” Kalla said. “Tears that fell at that time...there were feelings of confusion, shock, sorrow, fear and suffering. We prayed.”
Ten years later, much of the region has been rebuilt. Like the other nations hit, Indonesia is now linked to the Tsunami Detection System in the Indian Ocean. Once an earthquake occurs, a system of seafloor sensors and surface buoys sends signals to government warning centers that can now alert cities a tsunami could be coming. A decade ago, such a system only existed in the Pacific Ocean.
If the system had been in place during the 2004 tsunami, countries such as Sri Lanka—where 51,000 lives were lost—could have been warned of the wave as it moved across the Indian Ocean, and thousands of lives could have been spared.
Still, much work on the system needs to be done, as evidenced when an 8.6 magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia in 2012 and the tsunami warning went into effect within five minutes of the tremors.
“The conditions were totally chaotic," Syarifah Marlina Al Mazhir, a lifelong resident of Banda Aceh, told National Geographic. “Instead of evacuating to safe areas, people were going home or picking up the kids at school, which created traffic jams.”
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