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Australia Holds Day of Mourning For Tsunami Victims


Australians have observed a minute of silence as part of a national Day of Mourning for the victims of Asia's tsunami. Commemorative services at mosques, churches and temples have been held, while flags fly at half-staff. Religious leaders say the disaster has brought Australia closer to its stricken neighbors to the north.

The Australian government says Sunday's national day of mourning is "an important part of the healing process" after the horrors of the tsunami disaster.

Prime Minister John Howard led the day attending an Anglican Church service in Sydney and a Hindu ceremony.

The Anglican Primate of Australia Peter Carnley said the tragedy has brought people closer together. "I think we're all changed by disasters of this kind and we see ourselves less as divided from people by race and religion and culture and national identity and much more as fellow human beings. And we're steadfastly committed to the support of our fellow human beings to the north and around the Indian Ocean," he said.

Twelve nations rimming the Indian Ocean were affected by the December 26 tsunami, the hardest hit were Indonesia and Sri Lanka. More than 150,000 people have been killed. It struck at the height of the holiday tourist season, impacting scores of countries. Some 17 Australians died in the tragedy.

Survivors have also been recalling their experiences. Australian tourist Alexa Moses was in Thailand when the waves hit. "We looked out the window and we saw about 20 meters away a big, brown mass of water coming towards us. Our beach hotel was a beach hotel right on the beach and the bungalows ahead of us were just being smashed. So we just watched as the wave came in and felt it hit the building, which was one of the worst memories I have actually," she said.

At Australia's most famous beach at Bondi in Sydney, shark sirens were sounded to mark the start and finish of the minute's silence.

It was also observed in Hobart during the one-day cricket international match between Australia and Pakistan as fielders and batsmen stood motionless to remember the thousands who died.

The Australian government has committed $750 million to the long-term rebuilding of Indonesia's stricken Aceh region, where most of the victims of the tsunami were killed.

The Australian navy ship HMAS Kanimbla has arrived in Aceh carrying hundreds of sailors and engineers along with helicopters to help the international relief effort.

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