World marks tsunami anniversary

The world's grief and compassion returned to the Indian Ocean's tsunami-battered shores yesterday, marking a year since giant waves crashed ashore in a dozen countries, laying waste to communities and sweeping away at least 216,000 lives. Beside gentle seas that belied the fury unleashed last December 26, survivors, friends and relatives commemorated the lost lives and destruction from one of the worst natural disasters in memory. World leaders sent condolences.

In Indonesia's Aceh province on Sumatra island, the closest land to the magnitude 9 quake that spawned the tsunami, the president sounded a tsunami warning siren at 8:16 a.m. (0116 GMT) the moment the first wave struck to start a minute's silence "It was under the same blue sky, exactly one year ago that mother earth unleashed her most destructive power upon us," said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "The assault began with a massive earthquake but ... that was only a prelude to the horrific catastrophe to come."

Similar silences were observed in Asian nations across the tsunami-zone. Bells rang at mosques, churches and temples in Thailand and Sri Lanka. And in India mourners marched to a mass grave to pay homage to unidentified victims. Some preferred more personal reflection.

A man sat weeping in the sand before a gently lapping sea in Thailand where more than a thousand Western tourists were among the dead a bouquet of white roses in front of him. "Somehow it's good to see this place," said Ulrika Landgren, 37, from Malmo, Sweden, in tears as she visited the beach where she lost nine family friends.

Last year's quake the most powerful in 40 years ruptured the ocean floor off Sumatra, displacing billions of tons of water and sending 10-metre-high walls of water roaring across the Indian Ocean at jetliner speeds. The tsunami was felt as far off as east Africa and swept a passenger train from its tracks in Sri Lanka, killing nearly 2,000 people.

Communities wiped out Entire villages and coastal communities in Indonesia and India were wiped off the map, and lobbies of five-star hotels in Thailand were littered with corpses. Scores of powerful aftershocks have rumbled through the region all year.

The tsunami generated one of the most generous outpourings of foreign aid ever known. Some US$13 billion was pledged to relief and recovery efforts, the UN says, of which 75 per cent has already been secured. But the pace of reconstruction has been criticized, and frustration has grown with 80 per cent of the nearly 2.1 million people displaced by the waves still living in tents, plywood barracks or with family and friends, reports China Daily. I.L.

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