Aceh Province – 7 Years Later

 

Yuri always rises at dawn and heads to the beach to check out the surfing conditions.  He had felt the earthquake, but that was common on the island of Sumatra being so close to the ‘ring of fire’. But what he saw that Boxing Day, 2004 will forever haunt him;  the narrow beach was now a huge expanse of sand reaching far out into the bay and the immense wall of water he could see in the distance made him rush home to raise the alarm.  Nina was also up early and saw an island in the bay she never knew was there.  Fleeing on foot, on scooters and motorbikes some 400 people ( population:  7500) from the village of Lhok Nga reached higher ground where they watched a 35m wave flatten their homes and change their lives forever.  The height of the waves varied widely along the coast, but whatever the height, the power of a wall of water is one of the most destructive forces on earth.

There are so many stories and sorrows from this early morning disaster and yet, 7 years later, trees and vegetation thrive, traditional homes have been rebuilt, businesses are opening, major infrastructure projects have been completed and the tourists are coming back.  There are very few elders in the villages and almost all the children are under 6 years old.

  • Main Street in Lhok Nga.  With around 32 inches of rain per year, the area was quickly replanted and there doesn't seem to be much damage to the soils from the seawater.. Main Street in Lhok Nga. With around 32 inches of rain per year, the area was quickly replanted and there doesn't seem to be much damage to the soils from the seawater..
  • Map showing the damage to the northern part of Sumatra from the 2004 tsunami. Map showing the damage to the northern part of Sumatra from the 2004 tsunami.
  • Map of tsunami damage in the Aceh. Map of tsunami damage in the Aceh.
  • This electric generating ship was anchored in the harbour prior to the tsunami, but now it lies 5km inland!  It is being turned into a memorial and tourist attraction. This electric generating ship was anchored in the harbour prior to the tsunami, but now it lies 5km inland! It is being turned into a memorial and tourist attraction.
  • Almost none of these "aid" houses are used by the local people because they are too close together and don't take into account the extended families and businesses that share a common plot of land. Almost none of these "aid" houses are used by the local people because they are too close together and don't take into account the extended families and businesses that share a common plot of land.
  • Abandoned marketplaces, cookie cutter homes and other structures erected with foreign aid show the lack of communication between the needs of the local people and the missions of the NGOs. Abandoned marketplaces, cookie cutter homes and other structures erected with foreign aid show the lack of communication between the needs of the local people and the missions of the NGOs.
  • USAID packing material is used to cover some windows in a local house. USAID packing material is used to cover some windows in a local house.
  • Tsunami deposited boulder.  The building survived the waves although the doors and windows were blown out.  The great mystery was how this huge boulder got through the narrow doorway.... Tsunami deposited boulder. The building survived the waves although the doors and windows were blown out. The great mystery was how this huge boulder got through the narrow doorway....
  • This is all that remains of the bridge across the tidal river in Lhok Nga.  A new bridge has been constructed about 20m upstream. This is all that remains of the bridge across the tidal river in Lhok Nga. A new bridge has been constructed about 20m upstream.
  • Traditional Structure in Lhok Nga used by the fishermen in the village. Traditional Structure in Lhok Nga used by the fishermen in the village.
  • The Grand Mosque in the city of Banda Aceh was virtually undamaged. The Grand Mosque in the city of Banda Aceh was virtually undamaged.
  • Mami and her sister farm this small rice paddy just outside Lhok Nga.  The agricultural knowledge in the area was lost when many of the elders died in the tsunami. Mami and her sister farm this small rice paddy just outside Lhok Nga. The agricultural knowledge in the area was lost when many of the elders died in the tsunami.
  • The sunsets are spectacular over this beautiful sandy beach at Lhok Nga. The sunsets are spectacular over this beautiful sandy beach at Lhok Nga.

And, just yesterday, we heard the great news that a young 15 year old girl, swept away in the 2004 tsunami, had wandered back to her village and was reunited with her family…….

 

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