Thousands of mourners flocked to mass graves Thursday in Indonesia’s Aceh province to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, one of the worst natural disasters in history.
On a grassy field in Aceh Besar district
where at least 47,000 victims were laid to rest, family members and relatives
prayed, scattered flower petals and comforted each other.
Among them was Nurhayati who lost her
youngest daughter in the disaster.
“I came here every year because I miss
her so much, she was only 17, just started college,” the 65-year-old told
“It’s been 15 years but even until now
every time I see an ocean, even on TV, I shudder and feel like a big wave would
be coming soon,” she said.
Almost 170,000 were killed in Aceh province
alone when a 9.1 magnitude undersea quake struck the predominantly Muslim
province on December 26, 2004, triggering massive tsunami waves that also
killed another 50,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, even as far
Some half a million people were left homeless
by the catastrophe that destroyed much of the province.
Muhammad Ikramullah was only 13 when the
tsunami hit, killing his parents and younger sibling. He spent years moving
around, living with relatives and his parents’ friends until he was able to
provide for himself.
“I am still traumatised, I don’t think I
will ever forget what happened,” the 28-year-old said.
The remains of his family have never been
found, but like most people who visit the mass grave every year, Ikramullah
only wanted to pray for his loved ones even though their bodies might not be
Years after the disaster, bodies are still
being discovered. In 2018, the remains of dozens of people were found in a
newly built housing complex.
Some have never found where their family
members were buried.
“I don’t know where my mother was
buried,” Jony China told AFP.
“But I keep coming here because I have a
feeling she was close,” he said.
Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and
volcanic activity due to it position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”
where tectonic plates collide.
Last year a tsunami triggered by a volcanic earthquake killed nearly 500 people in Banten province.