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230,000 people lost in a day: Asia remembers devastating 2004 tsunami

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PHANG NGA: Communities across Asia commemorated the more than 230,000 victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami yesterday, the 15th anniversary of one of the world's most deadly disasters.

On the morning after Christmas Day in 2004, a 9.1 magnitude quake off northern Sumatra island triggered a tsunami with waves as high as 17.4m that swept over vulnerable coastal areas of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and nine other countries.

"It still haunts me… I can remember it all the time," said Ms Suwannee Maliwan, 28, who lost both parents and five other relatives when the tsunami hit the Thai province of Phang Nga.

"Sometimes I dream that a wave is coming. I am still scared," she said.

"Sometimes I want to move somewhere else, but it is not possible because I was born here, my mum and dad died here."

Memorials were scheduled in the Indonesian province of Aceh, where entire villages were flattened and more than 125,000 people perished.

Since then, the area has been largely rebuilt, with some 25,600 residential, commercial, government and school buildings constructed inside a high-risk zone.

In Thailand, where more than 5,300 people were killed, including tourists visiting resort islands in the Andaman Sea, officials held a memorial ceremony and called for more awareness and preparedness for disasters.

"The government wants to lift safety standards... and build awareness across all sectors in preparing and protecting people against disasters," Deputy Interior Minister Nipon Bunyamanee said at an opening ceremony.

He added that Dec 26 had been designated National Accident Prevention Day.


Officials later laid wreaths at a memorial centre in Phang Nga to pay tribute to King Maha Vajiralongkorn's nephew, Mr Bhumi Jensen, who was seen jet-skiing off the coast when the tsunami hit. An interfaith service for Muslim, Christian and Buddhist victims was also scheduled.

In India, where more than 10,000 people died in the tsunami, survivors also held memorial ceremonies. More than 35,000 people died in Sri Lanka.