Sri Lanka's divided people have been united by a moment of silence to honour the more than 35,000 dead and missing after last year's tsunami. Survivors, families, and friends have gathered at mosques, churches and beaches in countries across the Indian Ocean in remembrance of the more than 220,000 people killed and the millions of lives shattered.
Temples around Sri Lanka were filled by crowds mourning those lost on this day, one year ago.At the Peace Pagoda overlooking Galle drums were beaten while monks chanted prayers, up until the moment at 9:26am when the waves first hit, and then a minute's silence was observed.
So too at Galle's main bus stand where all traffic came to a stop so that only the birds could be heard. Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse attended a state-sponsored ceremony at the site of the world's worst train disaster. When the first wave came residents near Hikkaduwa boarded the train to avoid it - the second larger wave engulfed the carriages killing more than 1,000 people. The visit was tightly secured following a weekend of violence that brought to 64 the number of people killed in attacks in the island nation this month.
Factional fighting within the Tamil Tigers and attacks on security forces threaten the viability of a already dangerously fragile cease-fire.
Thousands of people gathered to pray in mosques along the ravaged coastline of the Indonesian province of Aceh to remember the 170,000 who perished in the tsunami. This morning Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited survivors at the ocean's edge in Banda Aceh. "It was under the same blue sky exactly a year ago that Mother Earth unleashed her most destructive power upon us," he said."The assault began with a massive earthquake about 150 kilometres off Sumatra, but that earthquake was only a prelude of a horrific catastrophe to come."The Indonesian leader also said this was a day to remember the survivors."The men, women and children who are trying to rebuild their lives," he said.
Past and present world leaders also sent messages via video link including John Howard who reiterated Australia's aid commitment to tsunami victims.Australians killed in the tsunami in Thailand have been remembered in a ceremony on the local beach. A small number of relatives of the victims have gathered at Phuket.
Relatives and friends threw flowers into the waves on Patong Beach to remember the victims of the tsunami. Twenty-three Australians were among around 8,000 people who were killed or swept away in Thailand. Australian Ambassador Bill Paterson led this morning's ceremony. "It was a day of boundless tragedy, of families being torn apart," he said.It was an emotional service but for some like Ingrid Hastie from Perth, whose mother died in the tsunami it also means being able to put the events in the past.
"We needed this and now we can move on," she said.Arthur de Graas was among the many mourners gathered at Phuket."I'm very emotional anyway because of it so I'm really holding back the tears," he said."It's good to see a lot of people have attended. You know we're all very, very grateful that we're here”, reports AFP. I.L.