Germany joins in commemorating Asian tsunami victims | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 26.12.2009
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Germany joins in commemorating Asian tsunami victims

Across Asia, people have paused to remember those killed in the 2004 tsunami which killed hundreds of thousands. A memorial service has also been held in Germany for the German victims of the disaster.

A church service for tsunami victims at the Johannes church in Duesseldorf

Over 500 Germans were also killed by the tsunami

German survivors and relatives of victims of the devastating 2004 tsunami gathered for a memorial service at the Johannes church in the western German city of Duesseldorf on Saturday.

The remembrance marked five years since giant waves claimed some 230,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of others at Indian Ocean coastline settlements on Boxing Day in 2004.

Amongst the victims were 539 Germans, most of whom were visiting resorts in the affected region during their Christmas holidays as the tsunami struck. A further 13 Germans are still registered as missing.

Sri Lankan tsunami survivors pay tribute to a tsunami monument in Peraliya, Sri Lanka

Sri Lankans marked two minutes' silence to pay tribute to victims

Painful memories

Friends and relatives of victims placed candles and read out the victims' names accompanied by a musical backdrop inside Duesseldorf's largest Protestant church.

President Horst Koehler and Juergen Ruettgers, the premier of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia of which Duesseldorf is the capital, placed wreaths honoring the dead.

"We present to you the sadness and emptiness of the people who are missing their loved ones ever since the quake five years ago," said Petra Bosse-Huber, a leading member of the Rhineland branch of the Protestant church.

A condolence book was filled with heart-wrenching messages.

"Dear Timo, in our hearts you live on," wrote the parents of a victim who was 11 when he was killed by the tsunami. "Thailand remains my beloved country, as my husband is there forever," read another message.

The altar of the Johannes church was covered in white petals, and a blue cloth was draped over the altar steps to symbolize the tsunami.

As one woman placed her remembrance candle, she spoke of her brother who was swept away by the waves as he stood in the hotel reception area, at the end of his vacation. Days later, his holiday postcards arrived home, she recalled.

A half-finished Mosque in Banda Aceh

Reconstruction still continues in Aceh, Indonesia, five years after the wave struck

Commemorations in Asia

The tsunami struck a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean rim December 26, 2004. Its towering waves wiped out entire coastal communities, devastated families and crashed over tourist-filled beaches the morning after Christmas Day.

People across Asia paused on Saturday to recall the horror five years ago unleashed by an undersea earthquake off Sumatra.

In Indonesia's Banda Aceh region, about 100 people took part at a prayer ceremony close to a fishing boat that landed on the rooftop of a two-storey house after being swept miles inland. Several other memorial events were also held and thousands prayed at mosques across Indonesia to mark the tsunami anniversary.

A refuge designed to withstand earthquakes and tsunamis, close to the coast in Aceh

Tsunami-proof refuges now dot the coast of Aceh

Indonesia was the worst hit with more than 160,000 dead and missing. Massive reconstruction work in Banda has resulted in the building of a new city on top of the ruins but survivors haven't yet succeeded in putting memories of the disaster behind them.

In Thailand, where the tsunami killed over 5,000 people, hundreds of candle-lit lanterns floated into the sky at a beach on the southern island of Phuket, in one of many events across the region in memory of one of history's worst natural disasters. Thousands of saffron-robed Buddhist monks held rallies and people held vigils on Saturday.

In Sri Lanka, where an estimated 31,000 people perished in the tsunami, remembrance ceremonies were held and the entire country observed two minutes of silence in honor of victims.

Religious ceremonies were also held across the island and victims' families gave donations to the poor, temples and churches in memory of their loved ones.

Low-key commemorations marked the anniversary in southern India, which bore the brunt of the disaster in that country, with an estimated 6,500 deaths. In India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands, multi-faith prayers were held in the archipelago's capital Port Blair for about 4,000 people killed by the tsunami.

rb/dpa/AFP/Reuters/AP
Editor: Ian P. Johnson

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