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REFILING: Indonesia's once-devastated Aceh commemorates 2004 tsunami.

KRUENG RAYA, Indonesia, Dec. 26 Kyodo


Thousands of the Acehnese people commemorated Wednesday the eighth anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people in 11 countries.

The mass devotional ceremony took place in the compound of the province's main port Malahayati in the village of Krueng Raya, near the Aceh provincial capital Banda Aceh, where about 5,000 people gathered.

As the closest point to the huge magnitude 9.1 undersea earthquake that was centered in Indian Ocean on Dec. 26, 2004, the catastrophe claimed 180,000 lives just in Aceh Province.

Aceh Gov. Zaini Abdullah stressed in a speech how important it is to keep the environmental balance in efforts to avoid a repeat of such a disaster.

"Greediness of humans destroys forests, sea, lake and others, so it destroys the balance of the nature," Abdullah said. "Let's make this tsunami commemoration a moment to create positive behavior and also make changes in ourselves to be more creative in building better Aceh in the future."

Among the thousands attending the ceremony were eight Japanese teachers and education officials from three prefectures affected by the tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011.

They were invited by the Japan International Corporation Agency.

Representing the teachers' group, Jun Ogasawara from Miyako High School in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, told the crowd that Indonesia and Japan had shared similar experiences of tsunami, wounds which may not be healed by time.

"But I believe and am convinced that if Indonesia and Japan help each other, holding hands, they can build bright future together," Ogasawara said. "We come here to get your spirit, which you can be given to our children in Japan."

Abdullah, in his address, said disaster mitigation has now become one among several priority programs of the Aceh government.

To implement it, raising public awareness is important and every district in Aceh will set up a disaster-awareness community aimed at spreading understanding among the people about disaster mitigation.

"If people have good knowledge about disaster, it will certainly make efforts of disaster mitigation effective," he said.

Also Wednesday, a local film community launched 12 documentary movies on tsunami in campaigning for disaster awareness at the 2,500-square-meter, four-story Tsunami Museum built in Banda Aceh as a lasting tribute to the 2004 tsunami victims.

"Nyanyian 1907" (A 1907 Song), one of the documentaries, tells a story about a song on the history of tsunami on Simeuleu Island west of Aceh in 1907.

The song tells of the local wisdom of how to escape from a tsunami.

In the 2004 tsunami, in contrast to the death toll in the rest of Aceh, only seven people died on the island, the closest point to the epicenter of the earthquake, because the islanders have known for many generations they should run to high ground after a strong quake.

A tsunami drill also took place in Cot Lamkuweuh in Banda Aceh that eight years ago was one of the worst-hit areas.

Of its 3,000 population, only 10 percent survived.

During the drill, people followed directions to the tsunami evacuation shelter.

And across Aceh, people are flying the red and white national flag at half-staff or half-mast for three as signs of nationwide grief.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9INDO
Date:Dec 31, 2012
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