U.S. Water News Online
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- Muhammad Yani stood on the roof of
a mosque, watching the tsunami's churning waters surge past, roiling
with people and debris.
"I was not afraid at the time," said Yani, 35, who later found out
he had lost his parents and younger brother to the waves. "I was more
aware than ever that my soul belonged to Allah."
The dried-fish vendor pieced his life back together with a
donation of salt and a wheelbarrow, and now lives in a ramshackle hut
on a swampy wasteland -- he rejected offers of cash -- testimony to
the resilience of those who survived the disaster last Dec. 26.
The world united in grief and compassion at Christmas to remember
the devastation wrought in a dozen nations around the Indian Ocean a
Mourners filled mosques in Indonesia's shattered Aceh province,
the region hit hardest. Candlelight vigils in chilly Sweden
remembered citizens lost during sunny holidays. An achingly personal
tribute -- a bouquet of white roses -- stuck in the sand in Thailand.
In a taped message, President Bush recalled "the acts of courage
and kindness that made us proud" in the sorrowful days after the
disaster. Former President Clinton, the U.N. special envoy for
tsunami recovery, promised not to let the world forget its pledges of
Survivors relived the terrible day when the sea rose as high as 33
feet and surged inland for miles with seemingly unstoppable force,
carrying along trees, houses, train cars -- and thousands people --
in a churning rush.
"It was under the same blue sky, exactly one year ago, that Mother
Earth unleashed her most destructive power upon us," Indonesian
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told a crowd at a ceremony in
Banda Aceh, provincial capital of Aceh province, which had 156,000
dead and missing.
He sounded a tsunami warning siren -- part of a system that did
not exist last year -- at 8:16 a.m., the moment the first wave hit,
to herald a minute's silence.
On Dec. 26, 2004, the region's most powerful earthquake in 40
years tore open the sea bed off the Sumatran coast, displacing
billions of tons of water and sending waves roaring across the Indian
Ocean at jetliner speeds as far away as East Africa.
The impact was staggering. Water swept a passenger train from its
tracks in Sri Lanka, killing nearly 2,000 people in a single blow.
Entire villages in Indonesia and India disappeared. Lobbies of
five-star hotels in Thailand were filled with corpses.
At least 216,000 people were left dead or missing and nearly 2
million lost their homes in a disaster that still rends hearts.
About the time the waves hit a year ago, a man sat alone on Patong
beach in Thailand weeping quietly as the sea gently lapped before
him, belying its earlier fury. A white rose bouquet jutted from the
sand nearby. He refused to talk to a reporter.
Nearby, Ulrika Landgren, 37, had come from Malmoe, Sweden, to see
where nine of her friends died. "Somehow it's good to see this
place," she said, tears leaking from behind her sunglasses.
Indonesia tested its tsunami warning system for the first time
recently. Alarms sounded in the Sumatran town of Padang, 620 miles
south of Banda Aceh, sending residents fleeing for higher ground in a
"We knew it was just a drill," said Candra Yohanes, 55, who was
among those who ran. "Still, when I heard the siren, my heart was
pounding so hard."
Dozens of powerful aftershocks have rattled the region since last
year's magnitude-9 quake, keeping people anxious about the
possibility of another tsunami.
Somber ceremonies were held around the world.
In Sri Lanka, President Mahinda Rajapakse met with survivors near
the site of the deadly train accident. Butchers hung up their knives
to show respect for life, and Buddhist monks chanted prayers through
Thousands of Indians attended an interfaith service at an 18th
century church, then marched to a mass burial ground.
Sweden, Germany, Finland and other European countries held
memorials to mourn their dead. The tsunami killed more than 2,400
foreigners, many of them European tourists, in Thailand.
Somalis gathered in mosques along the East African nation's coast
to commemorate the 289 people who disappeared in the waves and to
pray for the tens of thousands still homeless.
"It was so brutal, so quick, and so extensive that we are still
struggling to fully comprehend it," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
said in a videotaped message played in Banda Aceh.
The tsunami generated one of the most generous outpourings of
foreign aid ever known -- some $13 billion in pledges. But
frustration is growing among the 1.4 million people still living in
tents, plywood barracks or with family and friends.
"You want to talk about changes, we've seen nothing," said Baihqi,
a 24-year-old Acehnese survivor, waving a hand dismissively at the
jumble of scrap iron and plastic sheeting that is all that remains of
his neighborhood. "Many promises of aid, but that's all we get --
The anniversary "just means we've existed for one year," he said.
For most, though, it was a day to think about the hellish events
of a year ago, about death, about survival.
On Thailand's Patong Beach, Raymond and Sharon Kelly recalled how
she escaped because her husband boosted her onto a wall. He was swept
away and washed inside a shop, but managed to open a skylight and get
on the roof.
"I never thought I would come back. Every day I would cry," she
Despite their fears, the couple from Hull, England, came back to
remember and to pay respects to those who were lost.
As they talked, a man tapped Sharon on the shoulder and said,
It was Adolf Ruschitschka, 69, from Ruesselsheim, Germany. The two
had been trapped together on a rooftop ringed by the savage, swirling
Shaking with emotion, Sharon embraced him, tears pouring down her
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