Jakarta. Hundreds of Acehnese prayed at a mass cemetery in Ulee Lheue, Banda Aceh, on Tuesday (26/12) to honor victims of the Boxing Day tsunami that swept through the region 13 years ago, killing an estimated 230,000 people and devastated coastal communities in 11 countries as far away as the Maldives.
The tsunami was caused by a 9.3 magnitude earthquake and is one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.
Ulee Lheue, the tsunami’s "ground zero," is a coastal town 3 kilometers west of Banda Aceh. Only 10 percent of its pre-tsunami population of 6,000 survived the destruction caused by massive 30-meter waves.
More than 14,000 tsunami victims are buried at the Ulee Lheue mass cemetery.
Many people joined the prayer without knowing for sure if their relatives are actually buried in the cemetery, including Nur Azizah, a resident of neighboring district Blang Oi, who prays there every year.
"I don’t know exactly where [my family members] are buried, but I'm sure they're here. Thirteen years have passed but I still miss them," Rohani said as quoted by BeritaSatu.com.
Fishermen also elected to remain on shore on Tuesday in honor of the dead and joined the other residents in the annual prayer.
Banda Aceh Mayor Aminullah Usman in a speech at the ceremony encouraged residents not to wallow in sadness but to rise up and meet new challenges.
"We have to rise up from this disastrous event, even though it is hard for many of us to forget what happened," Aminullah said.