Four years after a massive tsunami crashed into the coastlines of Asia, a museum has been built at Indonesia’s Aceh province to commemorate the victims of the disaster. The museum has been constructed as a symbolic reminder of the disaster and also the outpouring of aid that followed.
Aceh was home to more than half of the 230,000 who died in the tsunami
The roof of the four-storey museum has been built to resemble a tidal wave. The museum also features a chimney-like Tunnel of Sorrow, which displays the names of many of the victims, along with their stories. Visitors can also experience an electronic simulation of the massive undersea earthquake that triggered the 30-foot high waves on 26. Dec. 2004.
The entrance to the museum has two high walls with waterfalls on either side, so that visitors can get a feel of the fear and panic experienced by the tsunami victims. There are also exhibits testifying to the outpouring of support received from governments, companies and individuals from across the world after the tsunami hit.
Huge influx of humanitarian aid
Aceh was among the hardest hit regions in Asia, being home to more than half of the 230,000 people who died in the tsunami. More than 10 billion euros were pledged for reconstruction and rehabilitation in Aceh and Nias, an island near Aceh that was also destroyed in the disaster. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spoke at the inauguration of the museum on Monday:
“I hope that the rehabilitation projects and the rebuilt infrastructure can really help Aceh to boost the economy again. Indonesia, the government and I would personally like to express our heartfelt thanks to the international community and to all the humanitarian aid workers who helped the people of Aceh and Nias rebuild their future,” said Yudhoyono.
But the museum project, which cost over four million euros, has also raised some controversy. Some survivors have questioned why so much money went into building a monument to the victims when so many of them are still living in barracks in Aceh.
However, the government maintains the museum is a critical part of the recovery process because it pays tribute to the victims and explains to future generations what happened and why.
Much more needs to be done
Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf agrees that much more still needs to be done in his province. He said that the rehabilitation projects had certainly brought visible results, but the destruction caused by long-term conflicts, earthquakes and the tsunami was enormous.
“This is especially so in the regions far away from the provincial capital Banda Aceh. That’s why we need more reconstruction projects to be financed by the central government or by international donors in these areas,” said Yusuf.
Although a state reconstruction agency was set up after the 2004 tsunami to manage the huge influx of financial aid it is due to wind down its operations by April. The agency spent a total of over five billion euros on 134,000 houses, 3,600 kilometres of roads, and about 1,400 schools.
After April, Yusuf's fledgling local government is expected to take on a more significant role in reconstruction efforts. It plans to set up an office to streamline rules and attract greater investment to the region.
President Yudhoyono has also promised to establish a new agency to oversee reconstruction in Aceh.