Asia remembers devastating 2004 tsunami with prayers, memorial services

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Aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami


(Reuters) - Survivors of Asia's 2004 tsunami and relatives of its 226,000 victims gather along shorelines of the Indian Ocean on Friday for prayers and memorial services to mark the 10th anniversary of a disaster that still leaves an indelible mark on the region.

When a 9.15-magnitude quake opened a faultline deep beneath the ocean a decade ago on Dec. 26, it triggered a wave as high as 17.4 meters (57 feet) which crashed ashore in more than a dozen countries, wiping some communities off the map in seconds.

In some places, survivors have still not recovered their lives fully, complaining of shoddy and uneven reconstruction. In Indonesia's Aceh province, where 168,000 people were killed, the tsunami helped end a long-running separatist conflict.

On Thursday night, mass prayers were held at Aceh's Grand Mosque, one of only a few buildings that withstood the wave. Local Muslims see spiritual significance in its survival.

"The reason is because this is the house of Allah," said Azman Ismail, who has been the Great Imam of the mosque, Masjid Baiturrahman, since before the tsunami. "Allah kept his house unscathed, that's what we Muslims believe."

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Asia remembers devastating 2004 tsunami with prayers, memorial services
Indonesia was hit the hardest by the Indian Ocean tsunami ten years ago. This was their way of commemorating the 160, 000 or more who died in Aceh Province alone. These were the scenes in the immediate aftermath when the massive wave struck. The death toll rose day by day as bodies littered the streets and others were washed ashore. Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said Friday's ceremony was as much about the future as the past.
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (LEFT) and 2014 (RIGHT) ***LEFT IMAGE*** ACEH, INDONESIA - JANUARY 8, 2005: An aerial shot taken from a US Navy Seahawk helicopter from carrier USS Abraham Lincoln shows devastation caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami to the west of Aceh on January 8, 2005 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka are the countries most affected by the December 26 earthquake-tsunami disaster. (Photo by Dimas Ardian/Getty Images) ***RIGHT IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 11: An aerial view of coastal in Lampuuk prior to the ten year anniversary of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami on December 11, 2014 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh was the worst hit location, being the closest major city to the epicentre of the 9.1 magnitude quake, suffering a huge hit from the following tsunami and resulting in around 130,000 deaths. Throughout the affected region of eleven countries, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. (Photos by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (TOP) and 2014 (BOTTOM) ***TOP IMAGE*** TON SAI BAY-PHI PHI ISLAND, THAILAND - DECEMBER 28: Bodies cover the area, waiting, to be transported by boat to Phuket and Krabi on December 28, 2004 in Phi Phi Village, on Ton Sai Bay, Thailand. On Phi Phi island hundreds were killed when an earthquake caused a Tsunami wave destroying everything in its path. The powerful Asian earthquake has effected coastal areas in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India in addition to the tourist isles of Thailand, the death toll is over 50,000. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) ***BOTTOM IMAGE*** PHI PHI ISLAND, THAILAND - DECEMBER 11: A construction worker walks where new buildings are taking place prior to the ten year anniversary of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami on December 11, 2014 in Phi Phi Village, Ton Sai Bay, Thailand. The tenth anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killing almost 250,000 people will be remembered on December 26. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (TOP) and 2014 (BOTTOM) ***TOP IMAGE*** PHI PHI ISLAND, THAILAND - DECEMBER 28: Rescue workers carry a body from a shop, December 28, 2004 in Phi Phi Village, Ton Sai Bay, Thailand. Hundreds were killed on the island when an earthquake caused a Tsunami wave destroying everything in its path. The powerful Asian earthquake has effected coastal areas in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and the tourist isles of Thailand, the death toll is over 20,000. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) ***BOTTOM IMAGE*** PHI PHI ISLAND, THAILAND - DECEMBER 12: People walk along the streets prior to the ten year anniversary of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami on December 12, 2014 in Phi Phi Village, Ton Sai Bay, Thailand. The tenth anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killing almost 250,000 people will be remembered on December 26. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (TOP) and 2014 (BOTTOM) ***TOP IMAGE*** ACEH, INDONESIA - JANUARY 8, 2005: An aerial shot taken from a US Navy Seahawk helicopter from carrier USS Abraham Lincoln shows devastation caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami to the west of Aceh on January 8, 2005 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka are the countries most affected by the December 26 earthquake-tsunami disaster. (Photo by Dimas Ardian/Getty Images) ***BOTTOM IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 11: An aerial view of houses in Lampuuk prior to the ten year anniversary of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami on December 11, 2014 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh was the worst hit location, being the closest major city to the epicentre of the 9.1 magnitude quake, suffering a huge hit from the following tsunami and resulting in around 130,000 deaths. Throughout the affected region of eleven countries, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. (Photos by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (LEFT) and 2014 (RIGHT) ***LEFT IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 28: A scene of devastation is seen in the tsunami hit Indonesian City of Banda Aceh -150 miles from southern Asia's massive earthquake's epicenter - on December 28, 2004, Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Up to 55,000 are feared dead across South East Asia and the number is still rising with the possibility of disease outbreaks threatening to claim more as time goes on. (Photo by: Dimas Ardian/Getty Images) ***RIGHT IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 11: People visit the Grand Mosque prior to the ten year anniversary of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami on December 11, 2014 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh was the worst hit location, being the closest major city to the epicentre of the 9.1 magnitude quake, suffering a huge hit from the following tsunami and resulting in around 130,000 deaths. Throughout the affected region of eleven countries, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. (Photos by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (TOP) and 2014 (BOTTOM) ***TOP IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 28: A scene of devastation is seen in the tsunami hit Indonesian City of Banda Aceh -150 miles from southern Asia's massive earthquake's epicenter - on December 28, 2004, Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Up to 55,000 are feared dead across South East Asia and the number is still rising with the possibility of disease outbreaks threatening to claim more as time goes on. (Photo by: Dimas Ardian/Getty Images) ***BOTTOM IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 11: A cart drives by in Taman sari park prior to the ten year anniversary of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami on December 11, 2014 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh was the worst hit location, being the closest major city to the epicentre of the 9.1 magnitude quake, suffering a huge hit from the following tsunami and resulting in around 130,000 deaths. Throughout the affected region of eleven countries, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. (Photos by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (TOP) and 2014 (BOTTOM) ***TOP IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 28: (EDITORS NOTE : GRAPHIC CONTENT) A man walks amid dead bodies and debris thrown around by a Tsunami that hit the Indonesian City of Banda Aceh - 150 miles from southern Asia's massive earthquake's epicentre December 28, 2004 in Banda Ache, Indonesia. Up to 25,000 were feared dead and the possibility of disease outbreaks threatened to claim more lives. (Photo by Dimas Ardian/Getty Images) ***BOTTOM IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 10: People drive along W.R Supratman street prior to the ten year anniversary of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami on December 10, 2014 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh was the worst hit location, being the closest major city to the epicentre of the 9.1 magnitude quake, suffering a huge hit from the following tsunami and resulting in around 130,000 deaths. Throughout the affected region of eleven countries, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. (Photos by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (TOP) and 2014 (BOTTOM) ***TOP IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 28: (EDITORS NOTE : GRAPHIC CONTENT) A man looks for relatives amid dead bodies and debris thrown around by a Tsunami that hit the Indonesian City of Banda Aceh - 150 miles from southern Asia's massive earthquake's epicentre December 28, 2004 in Banda Ache, Indonesia. Up to 25,000 were feared dead and the possibility of disease outbreaks threatened to claim more lives. (Photo by Dimas Ardian/Getty Images) ***BOTTOM IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 10: People drive on Pembangunan street prior to the ten year anniversary of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami on December 10, 2014 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh was the worst hit location, being the closest major city to the epicentre of the 9.1 magnitude quake, suffering a huge hit from the following tsunami and resulting in around 130,000 deaths. Throughout the affected region of eleven countries, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. (Photos by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (TOP) and 2014 (BOTTOM) ***TOP IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 28: (EDITORS NOTE : GRAPHIC CONTENT) Acehnese walk amid dead bodies and debris thrown around by a Tsunami that hit the Indonesian City of Banda Aceh - 150 miles from southern Asia's massive earthquake's epicentre December 28, 2004 in Banda Ache, Indonesia. Up to 25,000 were feared dead and the possibility of disease outbreaks threatened to claim more lives. (Photo by Dimas Ardian/Getty Images) ***BOTTOM IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 10: People drive along Panglima Polim street prior to the ten year anniversary of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami on December 10, 2014 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh was the worst hit location, being the closest major city to the epicentre of the 9.1 magnitude quake, suffering a huge hit from the following tsunami and resulting in around 130,000 deaths. Throughout the affected region of eleven countries, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. (Photos by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (TOP) and 2014 (BOTTOM) ***TOP IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - JANUARY 8, 2005: An aerial shot taken from a US Navy Seahawk helicopter from carrier USS Abraham Lincoln shows devastation caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami to the west of Aceh on January 8, 2005 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka are the countries most affected by the December 26 earthquake-tsunami disaster. (Photo by Dimas Ardian/Getty Images) ***BOTTOM IMAGE*** BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 11: An aerial view of houses prior to the ten year anniversary of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami on December 11, 2014 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh was the worst hit location, being the closest major city to the epicentre of the 9.1 magnitude quake, suffering a huge hit from the following tsunami and resulting in around 130,000 deaths. Throughout the affected region of eleven countries, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. (Photos by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (TOP) and 2014 (BOTTOM) ***TOP IMAGE*** PATONG, THAILAND - DECEMBER 27: A bank automated teller machine rests submerged in the pool of the Holiday Inn hotel near wrecked cars December 27, 2004 along Patong Beach, one of the worst hit provinces of Phuket, Thailand. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake caused a tsunami to hit the coastal areas of South East Asia, killing more than 20,000 people with thousands still missing. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) ***BOTTOM IMAGE*** PHUKET, THAILAND - DECEMBER 10: Children play in the pool at the Holiday Inn Phuket Resort and Hotel on December 10, 2014 at Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand. The tenth anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killing almost 250,000 people will be remembered on December 26. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (TOP) and 2014 (BOTTOM) ***TOP IMAGE*** PHI PHI ISLAND, THAILAND - DECEMBER 28: All over Ton Sai Bay, the heart of Koh Phi Phi shops, restaurants and bungalows were totally wiped out following a Tsunami December 28, 2004 on Phi Phi Island, Thailand. Hundreds were killed when an earthquake caused a Tsunami wave destroying everything in its path. The powerful Asian earthquake has effected coastal areas in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and tourist isles of Thailand, the death toll is over 20,000. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) ***BOTTOM IMAGE*** PHI PHI ISLAND, THAILAND - DECEMBER 12 : A general view of the beach prior to the ten year anniversary of the 2004 earthquake and tsunami on December 12, 2014 in Phi Phi Village, Ton Sai Bay, Thailand. The tenth anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killing almost 250,000 people will be remembered on December 26. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) In this composite image a comparison has been made between a scene in 2004 (TOP) and 2014 (BOTTOM) ***TOP IMAGE*** PATONG, THAILAND - DECEMBER 27: A Thai woman walks by the devastation at a hotel along Patong Beach, one of the worst hit provinces December 27, 2004 in Phuket, Thailand. A tsunami, caused by an earthquake estimated to be 9.0 in magnitude, is responsible for killing thousands of people throughout Asia. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images) ***BOTTOM IMAGE*** PHUKET, THAILAND - DECEMBER 10: Tourists get massages at a small parlor near the beach on December 10, 2014 at Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand. The tenth anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killing almost 250,000 people will be remembered on December 26. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
Septi Rangkuti (2nd L) holds his son Jumadi Rangkuti next to his wife Jamaliah (top R) and daugther Raudhatul Jannah (L) after being reunited with his missing son Arif Pratama Rangkuti (lower R) in Payakumbuh town on Sumatra island on August 19, 2014. The Indonesian boy was swept away by the devastating 2004 tsunami and has been reunited with his family a decade after he was given up for dead. His sister Raudhatul Jannah was also reunited with her family on August 7, 2014. Arif and her sister Raudhatul Jannah were carried off when huge waves struck their home in West Aceh district on December 26, 2004. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
Indonesian mother Jamaliah is reunited with her missing son Arif Pratama Rangkuti in Payakumbuh town on Sumatra island on August 19, 2014. The Indonesian boy was swept away by the devastating 2004 tsunami and has been reunited with his family a decade after he was given up for dead. His sister Raudhatul Jannah was also reunited with her family on August 7, 2014. Arif and her sister Raudhatul Jannah were carried off when huge waves struck their home in West Aceh district on December 26, 2004. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 25: Buddhist worshipers pray for victims to commemorate the ten anniversary of tsunami at mass grave on December 25, 2014 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh was the worst hit location, being the closest major city to the epicentre of the 9.1 magnitude quake, suffering a huge hit from the following tsunami and resulting in around 130,000 deaths. Throughout the affected region of eleven countries, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 25: Acehnese women attend for an collective zikr to commemorate the ten anniversary of tsunami at Baiturrahman grand mosque on December 25, 2014 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh was the worst hit location, being the closest major city to the epicentre of the 9.1 magnitude quake, suffering a huge hit from the following tsunami and resulting in around 130,000 deaths. Throughout the affected region of eleven countries, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 25: A woman puts a bouquet of flowers as pray for victims to commemorate the ten anniversary of tsunami at mass grave on December 25, 2014 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Aceh was the worst hit location, being the closest major city to the epicentre of the 9.1 magnitude quake, suffering a huge hit from the following tsunami and resulting in around 130,000 deaths. Throughout the affected region of eleven countries, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. (Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images)
PHANG NGA, THAILAND - DECEMBER 25: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) People commemorate the victims a day before the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami on December 25, 2014 in Phang Nga province, Thailand. Throughout the affected region of eleven countries, nearly 230,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
NAGAPATTINAM, INDIA DECEMBER 25: Leftover life-jackets lie in an old school building, used as a relief center during the 2004 Tsunami, in fishermens village of Akkaraipettai on December 25, 2014 in Nagapattinam, India. Nagapattinam was one of Tamil Nadus worst-hit places when the tsunami tore through south Asia 10 years ago. On December 26, 2004, a devastating tsunami triggered by an under-sea quake off Sumatra in Indonesia hit Tamil Nadus coast in Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Chennai and Kanyakumari. The killer waves claimed around 8,000 lives - men, women and children. Some 6,100 died in Nagapattinam alone. Over 230,000 were killed in the tsunami in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and the Maldives. (Photo by Gurinder Osan/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
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In Thailand, where 5,395 people were killed, among them about 2,000 foreign tourists, commemoration ceremonies will be held in Ban Nam Khem, a southern fishing village destroyed by the wave. Almost 3,000 people remain missing.

Eighty percent of the victims in Thailand were killed in the province of Phang Nga where experts from 39 nations quickly gathered to identify bodies in what became the world's biggest international forensics investigation.

Sri Lanka marks the anniversary with a symbolic ride of a train the tsunami had derailed, killing 1,270 passengers. The train will be powered by the same locomotive and feature five of the original carriages.

Tsunami escape drills will be held to demonstrate readiness of a large fishing community in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where 6,000 people were killed.

The past decade has seen more than $400 million spent across 28 countries on an early-warning system comprising 101 sea level gauges, 148 seismometers and nine buoys, but there are still concerns about the region's preparedness for another tsunami.

Millions in coastal areas are still vulnerable, some experts say.

Sirens were silent when a tsunami alert was issued in Indonesia after a 8.6-magnitude quake in April 2012, and all of the warning buoys are either missing or not working.

In India, a new system is struggling to communicate with remote areas and the head of Thailand's disaster warning center says its advanced and regularly tested system lacks maintenance.

(Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi and Shihar Aneez in Hambantota, Sri Lanka; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Mark Bendeich)

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