THAILAND and other nations in and around the Indian Ocean held memorial services yesterday on the 11th anniversary of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that killed about 230,000 people.
The southern provinces of Phuket and Krabi held religious rituals to make merit for the deceased and to remember those who were lost, as well as the heroes who rescued others. Similar activities were held in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere in and around the Indian Ocean where the tidal waves reaped death and destruction, as far away as coastal Africa.
A total of about 230,000 people died from the December 26, 2004 tsunamis, one of the deadliest natural disasters on record.
Phuket Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada led officials in white and members of the public offering alms to 26 Buddhist monks at the city hall yesterday morning, while Laem Phet monastery near Patong Beach hosted a Buddhist merit-making event.
An Islamic ritual was also held at Bang Tao Beach in Tambon Cherng Thalae.
At the Mai Khao tsunami memorial cemetery, the “Eleven Year in Memory of Tsunami” event was held with a ceremony for Buddhists, plus Christians and Muslims. It was attended by the relatives of victims, officials and representatives from various embassies.
At the tsunami memorial stone area behind Sunwing Hotel, the Phuket Longstay mid and advanced Aged Japanese Association (PLAJA) hosted a tsunami anniversary event and a religious ritual in which three Japanese monks prayed for the deceased and missing in the disaster. In the evening, a tsunami anniversary exhibition, a mourning ceremony, a Christian ritual and a Buddhist teaching were due to be held at Patong.
Similar events were held in Krabi, while those who survived the deadly waves said they still could not forget the drama.
Krabi governor Pinit Boonler hosted the ceremonies for three faiths on Koh Phi Phi yesterday, during which divers also went underwater to lay wreaths at the undersea memorial at Ao Ton Sai.
Bee-ah Changreu, 58, who came to remember her friend and relatives who lost their lives in the waves said she still had the horror of tsunami – with bodies lying on beaches – vivid in her mind as she was also on Koh Phi Phi when the disaster occurred.
Ranong province did not host a tsunami anniversary service yesterday. Officials opted instead for a campaign for public knowledge on how people can protect themselves and survive disasters in the future. Provincial governor Suriyan Kanchanasil said related agencies would soon survey evacuation routes and re-arrange them, as well as fix disaster warning towers to be ready for use, to boost public confidence.
But several people still showed up at memorial sites in Ranong to lay flowers in memory of the deceased.
On December 26, 2004, the 9.1-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that hit coastal communities across the Indian Ocean. The waves hit six provinces on the Andaman coast – Krabi, Phang Nga, Phuket, Ranong, Satun and Trang. It left at least 5,400 people dead and 2,800 missing.
Residents in Aceh held services yesterday also in memory at least 165,000 people killed in Indonesia’s westernmost province.
“We can never forget this day. It brings us a lot of pain. My heart sinks as I think of my son,” 42-year-old resident Anjammal Thangadurai said. She lost her 5-year old son in the tragedy.