Ten years ago today, on Boxing Day, the massive tsunami triggered by a quake off Sumatra hit countries from southeast Asia to the east coast of Africa.
The waves, which peaked close to 100 feet high, launched by the magnitude 9.3 quake, reached coastlines that included Indonesian villages and tourists sunning themselves in Thailand resorts for Boxing Day. Across a dozen countries, the death toll was estimated at 230,000, including citizens of 55 different nations with the highest casualties among Swedish and German tourists. Thirty-three Americans were confirmed dead with 18 missing.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the anniversary is a time to remember the warning sounded by climate change.
“I’ll never forget hearing the news of the tsunami that struck in the Indian Ocean 10 years ago. The images were gut-wrenching: entire towns razed from Indonesia to Somalia; raging waters sweeping away people’s homes; hundreds of thousands killed and many more separated from their families,” Kerry said in a statement.
“Today of all days, we pause to remember those we lost—from farmers and fishers to travelers from our own lands. I know that there are no words to express such a horrific loss. There’s no way to wipe away the pain of parents who lost a child, or children who lost their parents and were forced to assume adult responsibilities at a tender age.”
Kerry recognized “the millions of people who contributed to the recovery effort.” The massive humanitarian aid campaign included special envoys and former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
“And we honor those who have continued to work in the years since to help the victims pick up the pieces and rebuild their communities. The tsunami was one of the worst we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us,” Kerry continued.
“It also sounded a warning. We know that many regions are already suffering historic floods and rising sea levels. And scientists have been saying for years that climate change could mean more frequent and disastrous storms, unless we stop and reverse course. Last year I visited the Philippines and saw the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. It is incomprehensible that that kind of storm – or worse – could become the norm. The time to act on climate change is now – before it’s too late to heed the warning,” he said.
“On this day of reflection, we mourn with our friends in Asia and Africa who were affected by this terrible disaster. We commit to the hard work still ahead to help the region build safer, more resilient communities. And we pledge our best efforts to leave our children and grandchildren a safer and more sustainable planet. Future generations are counting on us.”
From The Guardian, an incredible story of Indonesian parents reunited with their two kids nearly a decade after they were swept away in the Aceh province flood. The boy and girl spent years living with abusive people who took them in and living on the streets, until their girl, now 14, was spotted by a relative in another village. She had been forced to collect used water bottles during the days and was relinquished by her new guardian only when the parents threatened a DNA test.
This first miracle led the couple to find their missing son, who had been living on the streets in a neighbouring province. The family moved to Medan, north Sumatra, last month.
Jamaliah says she is lucky beyond belief but admits it is tough making up for lost time. Arif, a traumatised 17-year-old, can barely read and write after years of living on the street. Raudhatul, 14, is enrolled in year five at school, several years below her peers.
But their mother has not given up hope.
“Raudhatul, since she was a little girl, always said she wanted to be a teacher. Arif wanted to be in the armed forces,” says Jamaliah, “Hopefully, if God allows, I can help them achieve what they wanted.”