Asia remembers devastating 2004 tsunami with tears and prayers

admin   •   December 26, 2014   •   2678

Relatives comfort each others after paying their respects at a wave-shaped tsunami monument for victims of the 2004 tsunami in Ban Nam Khem, a southern fishing village destroyed by the wave December 26, 2014. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

(Reuters) – Survivors of Asia’s 2004 tsunami and relatives of its 226,000 victims cried and prayed as they gathered along Indian Ocean shorelines on Friday for memorials to mark the 10th anniversary of a disaster that still leaves an indelible mark on the region.

When a 9.15-magnitude quake opened a faultline deep beneath the ocean on Dec. 26 a decade ago, it triggered a wave as high as 17.4 meters (57 feet) which crashed ashore in more than a dozen countries, wiping some communities off the map in seconds.

Hundreds gathered in Indonesia’s Aceh province, many bursting into tears as poems and songs were heard and a montage was screened showing the devastation from a disaster that killed 126,741 people in Aceh alone.

“It seems there’s no bigger lesson to Aceh than this. It is as if the souls of the dead are still with us,” said provincial governor Zaini Abdullah, formerly a prominent figure in a long-running separatist conflict the tsunami helped end.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the memorial brought him to tears but he took solace in a peace deal that proved adversity could bring people together to reconcile differences.

Mass prayers were held late on Thursday at Banda Aceh’s Grand Mosque, one of few buildings that withstood the wave.

“Allah kept his house unscathed,” said Azman Ismail, the Great Imam of the Masjid Baiturrahman mosque.

Relatives of victims also prayed at the graves of loved ones in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, where 677 Muslim families were relocated after the tsunami destroyed their village. Some 40,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka, but heavy rains in Hambantota forced the cancellation of memorial events there on Friday.


Fisherman Tuan Ilyas Idrees, who lost 10 family members, was deep in prayer after finding his dead mother close to a coconut tree by a mosque.

Idrees tearfully said his entire village was wiped out.

“I ran to my house to save my mother and others, but in just five minutes, there was no house at all,” Idrees said.

“We buried hundreds of bodies here.”

Crowds also gathered and laid wreaths at Thailand’s tsunami memorial park in Ban Nam Khem, a southern fishing village decimated by the wave.

Some 5,395 people were killed in Thailand, among them about 2,000 foreign tourists. Almost 3,000 people remain missing.

Eighty percent of Thailand’s victims were killed in the province of Phang Nga, where experts from 39 nations quickly gathered to identify bodies in what became the world’s biggest international forensics investigation. About 700 people carrying flowers and banners marched from the beach where the wave smashed against India’s southern Tamil Nadu coast to a black granite memorial, stopping by a Christian shrine to pray for the dead. An inter-faith ceremony was held for the 6,000 who died in Tamil Nadu, featuring Christian hymns and verses read from the Koran and Hindu texts

Illaycha, who lost five children, was inconsolable as she lit a candle. “I’m praying to the gods that they should take care of them in heaven,” she said.

Tsunami escape drills were to be held to demonstrate the readiness of Tamil Nadu’s large fishing community.

But doubts linger about how ready countries on the Indian Ocean really are for another giant wave. The past decade has seen more than $400 million spent across 28 countries on an early-warning system comprising 101 sea level gauges, 148 seismometers and nine buoys, but there are concerns about the effectiveness and maintenance of the systems in place.

Some experts say complacency is leaving millions vulnerable.

Abdullah, Aceh’s governor, said lessons must be learned.

“This experience reminds us that Indonesia is a place prone to natural disasters,” he said. “We have to prepare when disaster comes, so we can mitigate it fast and right.”

(Reporting by Shihar Aneez in Hambantota, Sri Lanka; Sunil Kataria in Nagappatinam, India, and Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Paul Tait)

WHO issues emergency use listing for India’s Covaxin COVID-19 jab

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 4, 2021

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday, Nov. 3, granted emergency use listing (EUL) to India’s homegrown COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin.

Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech, is the eight COVID-19 vaccine validated by WHO.

WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) recommended that Covaxin should be used in two doses, with a dose interval of four weeks, in all age groups 18 and above.

The said vaccine was found to have 78% efficacy against COVID-19 of any severity, 14 or more days after the second dose, and is extremely suitable for low- and middle-income countries due to easy storage requirements.

WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products Dr. Mariângela Simão said Covaxin was assessed under the WHO EUL procedure based on the review of data on quality, safety, efficacy, a risk management plan and programmatic suitability.

“This emergency use listing expands the availability of vaccines, the most effective medical tools we have to end the pandemic. We must keep up the pressure to meet the needs of all populations, giving priority to the at-risk groups who are still waiting for their first dose, before we can start declaring victory,” Simão said.

Meanwhile, available data on vaccination of pregnant women with the vaccine are insufficient to assess vaccine safety or efficacy in pregnancy; studies in pregnant women are planned, including a pregnancy sub-study and a pregnancy registry. AAC





Philippines to lift travel ban on 10 countries starting September 6

UNTV News   •   September 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to lift the current travel restrictions on travelers from 10 countries starting September 6, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced in a statement on Saturday.

These countries are namely:  India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Nonetheless, international travelers coming from the said countries shall comply with the appropriate entry, testing and quarantine protocols, depending on the country’s approved “listing,” Roque said.

He added that the IATF has adopted the “Yellow” and “Red” classifications, in addition to the “Green List” countries/jurisdictions/territories.

Roque said this is based on the countries’ respective incidence rates and case counts as primary criteria, and testing data as secondary criteria.  The incidence rate is the cumulative new cases over the past 28 days per 100,000 population while case counts are cumulative new cases over the past 28 days.

The government first imposed the travel restrictions on India in April then later expanded to include more countries to stem the spread of Delta variant, the highly transmissible strain of COVID-19.


PH extends ban on travelers from India, 6 other nations until July 31

Robie de Guzman   •   July 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government has extended its entry restrictions for travelers coming from India and six other countries until July 31, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) has approved the extension of travel restrictions on India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

“Inaprubahan ng inyong IATF ang extension ng travel restrictions sa India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates at Oman hanggang katapusan ng buwan o July 31, 2021,” Roque announced during his regular press briefing.

The travel ban, imposed to prevent the further entry of highly contagious Delta COVID-19 variant, was supposed to lapse on July 15.

Roque said the IATF technical working group has also been instructed to further review and submit recommendations on the appropriate testing and quarantine protocols for inbound travelers from the above-mentioned countries as well as other nations considered as “high risk” for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to decide on the recommended travel ban on Indonesia due to a surge in cases of Delta COVID-19 variant. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)


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