Ten years ago today a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra created a powerful tsunami that swept across South and Central Asia, killing nearly 228,000 people in 14 countries.
Waves 50-feet high reduced some coastal communities to their foundations and now, a decade later, the event remains a symbol of the mighty power of nature and human vulnerability.
No other region was hit harder than the Indonesian province of Ache, where 127,000 people were killed and another 500,00 were displaced, according to the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency for Aceh and Nias, which has helped the devastated region rebuild.
On Friday, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo, colloquially known as Jokowi, will attend a commemoration in Banda Ache, the province's capital, along with as many as 27 ambassadors.
"After the earthquake it was about one hour before the wave came," Noni Delfina, a resident of Banda Ache, told Oxfam International. "We could see it coming from our front gate across the golf course. The first wave was big, and crunchy, and destroyed everything."
"People who survived the first wave were then hit by the next, and water that was full of rubbish," she added.
In a statement on Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry reflected on the tsunami, saying that it "sounded a warning" for the impacts of more frequent, extreme weather events brought about by climate change.
"We know that many regions are already suffering historic floods and rising sea levels. And scientists have been saying for years that climate change could mean more frequent and disastrous storms, unless we stop and reverse course," he said. "Last year I visited the Philippines and saw the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. It is incomprehensible that that kind of storm — or worse — could become the norm. The time to act on climate change is now — before it's too late to heed the warning."
While the earthquake that caused the tsunami had nothing to do with climate change, the destruction it brought about highlights how rising sea levels put coastal communities at greater risk during hurricanes or typhoons.
(Video by International Committee of the Red Cross)
Aid and reconstruction costs from the tsunami are estimated at $10 billion, with $7 billion pledged to date. Hundreds of millions of dollars has been spent to install early warning systems that will detect off-shore earthquakes that might trigger tsunamis and help coastal communities evacuate.
"Many South East Asian countries are already taking concerted actions to address the impacts of climate change," said World Bank Vice President for East Asia and Pacific Axel van Trotsenburg at the release of a study on climate change impacts in the region. "We need to both intensify and accelerate these actions to reduce the ever-increasing vulnerability of populations to climate risk, especially the poor and vulnerable."
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