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Reflections on the South Asia Tsunami

For millions of people across Asia, the recent 10-year anniversary of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami was a time to remember loved ones and reflect on that terrifying day, which claimed 230,000 lives and affected millions of others. Over the past decade, ChildFund has assisted thousands of children and families in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka to get back on their feet. Here are some of their stories…

“I cannot recall anything that happened on that day or what the tsunami was like,” says 14-year-old Anita (pictured above), who was only 4 at the time. “But from what I have heard, I visualise a dark, huge wave that came rushing toward our village and devastated hundreds of families, including mine. I am told that my parents were killed in that disaster and I was left to be cared for by my aunt. I have only photographs of my parents. I miss them the most when people talk about them and about the tsunami.”

Rizla, 19, from Sri Lanka now lives with her aunt after losing her parents and brothers in the tsunami. A decade on, she feels hopeful about the future. “I`d like to be an accountant one day,” she says. “When I pass a bank and I look inside, I think that`s where I want to be.”

“It was early Sunday morning when the earthquake woke us up. The earth was swinging hard, right to left, up and down. We had experienced earthquakes before, but we had never seen buildings collapsing. My mum was crying. My friend, Mardan, who had stayed over with us that night, was saying, “This is the end of the world!” Everyone was panicked and hysterical. Then, the tremors stopped€¦

Suddenly, many people were running toward the airport while screaming, ˜Banda Aceh is drowning!` From afar, we saw dark water. We couldn`t even see the sky anymore.”“ Teuku, Indonesia

A. Mahesh, 31, from India pictured with her nine-year-old daughter Joyse says: “I was very pregnant and eager to welcome the new family member. But the tsunami water washed away our happiness. The strong current of the water swept me along and slammed me with some hard object. It was painful, but I managed to cling to a building wall and survived.

Three months passed by, but there was no sign of any labour. Doctors advised me to go for an emergency C-section. I obliged, and my daughter Joyse was born. The joy of her birth, however, was cut short when we learned she was suffering from cerebral palsy, which left her dependent on others and suffering for her whole life. Watching her suffer kills us every day.”

“They had to saw off the trees on top of me to take me out. We lost our house. My nails still fall off. They haven`t grown back fully since the water came,” says 61-year-old Girtie from Sri Lanka. “I am self-employed now, ” I cook meals and supply them to shops.”

“It was like the entire stretch of sea came rushing towards us. We all ran for safety, holding each other`s hands, and found ourselves on a building that had been pushed up by the water. Suddenly, we realised that our youngest son was missing. We searched all over, crossing through heaps of dead bodies, uprooted trees, broken boat parts and debris. Thoughts of his being no more had started killing us from inside.

Five days passed, but we never stopped our search. And finally my wife found our son in a rescue centre in another village. We were relieved. But other parents were not so lucky, their grief of missing their loved ones still continues.”  K. Rathnavel, 41, India

“I still remember the power of the water. You couldn`t hold yourself in one place. It was taking you where it wanted. I managed to cling to a concrete house. When the water receded, my mother and brother returned home from another building while my father returned after searching for us. But we could not find our younger sister, who had been playing outside with her friends.” Divya, 21, India

“At the campus mosque, I saw a little boy in front of me, about seven or eight years old, who was bleeding from a bad cut. He was crying, but I didn`t ask him anything. I was so confused about what was happening and overwhelmed by seeing so many dead people. I am thinking now maybe I was too selfish at that time for only thinking about myself. Even now, I still have his face in my mind.” Ayunita, Indonesia

Learn more about ChildFund`s regional Tsunami emergency response, here.

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