On December 26, 2004, a tsunami swept over parts of Asia killing hundreds of thousands. Ceremonies are taking place across the region Friday to commemorate those who died. Practice escape drills are also being held.
Remembrance ceremonies were held across the region
Indonesia Friday marked the fourth anniversary of the Boxing Day tsunami with thousands of people scrambling up to higher ground on the coast of North Sulawesi as sirens blared in a drill.
In Aceh at the northern end of Sumatra, where more than 170,000 people were either killed or went missing when a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered the tsunami, hundreds of survivors prayed at mosques across the Muslim province, the state-run Antara news agency reported.
Hundreds of others prayed at mass graves or gathered along the Aceh coast to honor victims of the giant waves that claimed up to 230,000 lives in 11 countries and displaced more than 1.8 million people.
Drills across the country
The destruction to the region was enormous
In the North Sulawesi province of Gorontalo, about 3,000-kilometers east of Aceh, more than 5,000 residents took part in the tsunami simulation drill.
Participants gathered in a field and then ran to a tsunami drill center located on higher ground after the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency carried out a warning siren test, state-run media reported.
As the people ran, ambulances and cars drove back and forth, bringing tsunami "victims" to "refugee camps." The drill took on a more realistic tone when some students, overcome by heat, actually fainted and needed medical attention.
Officials said North Sulawesi was chosen for the drill because the area is prone to earthquakes capable of triggering tsunamis. A powerful 7.7-magnitude quake struck the area on November 17, killing at least four people and injuring dozens of others.
New warning system
A new tsunami early warning system was launched in Indonesia last month
Indonesia last month launched a sophisticated tsunami warning system developed and funded by five donor countries, including Germany, Japan and the United States. Officials say the system can provide a tsunami warning five minutes after an earthquake has been detected, allowing ample time for the public to move to safety.
More than 120,000 houses, scores of schools and hospitals and many kilometers of roads have been rebuilt across Aceh since the tsunami.
Indonesia is located along the Pacific volcanic belt known as the "Ring of Fire," where earthquakes and volcanoes are common.
Sri Lanka remembers
40,000 people lost their lives in Sri Lanka alone
Sri Lanka held remembrance ceremonies in various parts of the island nation to mark the fourth anniversary of the event that claimed over 40,000 lives and displaced more than half a million people there.
An island-wide two-minute period of silence was observed Friday morning as friends and relatives of those killed in the worst natural disaster in the country's history gathered in coastal areas to mark the event.
A train engine caught in the tsunami has been repaired and was put into service for the first time in four years for a trip to the southern tourist town of Peraliya, 100 kilometers south of the capital, Colombo, in time to mark the two-minutes of silence. More than 1,000 people were killed when the train was swamped by raging waters.
Four years after the disaster, some of the people displaced by the tsunami still live in temporary shelters.