Indonesia marks five years after Indian Ocean tsunami


Jakarta: Relatives of people who died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated Indonesia’s Aceh province prayed at the graves of loved ones Saturday to mark the anniversary.

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A solemn prayer ceremony to remember about 170,000 people who died in Aceh and some 60,000 others across Indian Ocean countries was held in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

Vice President Boediono led the ceremony in the Ule Lhue area overlooking the sea, and later visited one of the mass graves where unidentified tsunami victims were buried.

Idris, a 45-year-old man who supervised temporary barracks that housed some of the survivors in Banda Aceh, said he lost his wife and four children in the tsunami.

“I tried to look for their bodies, but they were never found,” he said.

“I’m sure they are buried in one of the mass graves. I never stop praying for them.”

Post-tsunami reconstruction in Aceh has been hailed by donors as a success.

More than 130,000 houses, 2,700 km of roads, around 1,000 bridges and 1,500 km of irrigation channels have been built in a massive international effort.

“The Indonesian government has taken the lead to bring about the most successful reconstruction effort,” World Bank country director Joachim von Amsberg said last week.

“We are very proud and happy to be part of that story,” he said.

But officials said some problems persisted, including the fact that some of the survivors had not received houses and still live in temporary barracks.

“We have built enough houses but the problem is some people received more than one house,” said Iskandar, the head of the Aceh Sustainable Reconstruction Agency, known as BKRA.

BKRA replaced the Aceh-Nias Reconstruction Agency after its four-year mandate expired in April.

He said his office was working with the police and district governments to try to sort out the matter.

Aceh Deputy Governor Muhammad Nazar said the Multi-Donor Fund, which was established by governments and international agencies, still had 22 projects in the province as part of a $700-million reconstruction programme.

With the departure of most aid workers and an unemployment rate of 10 percent, job creation is a major concern in Aceh, Nazar said.

“Economic development and job creation are important parts of the recovery process,” Nazar said.

He said a $50 million project was being drawn up to support the economy and create jobs in the agriculture and fisheries sectors.

The 2004 tsunami was triggered by a 9.2-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, with Aceh being the worst hit.