Remembering the 2004 Tsunami

Few people in Aceh will ever forget 26 December 2004. An immense tsunami swept inland, killing 170,000 people and altering the physical and emotional landscape of the province forever. In spite of the extensive rebuilding that has removed most signs of physical damage, stark reminders of the devastation remain in the form of many memorials that both honour those killed and allow visitors to comprehend the full horror of what transpired. For many residents of the province the tsunami is a sensitive subject, as many lost loved ones. However, if interest is expressed in a delicate manner, no offence is taken.

  • Tsunami Museum A visit to this beautifully designed, hard-hitting museum commences with a walk through a dark, dripping tunnel that symbolises the tsunami waves. This is followed by a powerful set of images of the devastation projected from tombstone-like receptacles, and a circular chamber engraved with the names of the lost. Upstairs a very graphic short film is shown, along with photographs of loss, displacement, rebuilding, hopefulness and reunited families. Other displays explain how earthquakes and tsunamis are created and how Aceh’s landscape was altered by the disaster (look out for the ‘before’ and ‘after’ scale models of the city).
  • Lampulo Boat The most famous of the tsunami sights is the fishing boat resting on the house in Lampulo village, about 2km north of the city and 1km from where it was docked. It's said that 59 villagers survived the tsunami by climbing into the stuck boat.
  • PLTD Apung I This 2500-tonne power-generator vessel was carried almost 5km inland by the tsunami wave. It's now preserved as a memorial about 2km southwest of the city centre.
  • Mass Graves There are four mass graves around Banda Aceh where the dead were buried post-tsunami. The largest site is Siron Tsunami Memorial Park, located on the road to the airport, where 46,000 unidentified bodies were buried. Near Uleh-leh port, Meuraxa mass grave is the most visited site. Other grave sites include those at the Lhok Nga Tsunami Monument and Darusalam. Families who wish to mourn their unlocated loved ones choose one of the mass graves based on geographic proximity; they have no other evidence of where to offer their prayers.