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Asia Remembers Deadly 2004 Tsunami


People across Asia paused Saturday to observe the fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that killed up to 230,000 people in about a dozen countries.

The December 26, 2004 tsunami destroyed entire coastal communities, decimated families and crashed over tourist-filled beaches, sweeping away everyone and everything in its path.

Brief memorials were held in mosques throughout the region beside mass graves, and at seaside resorts and communities on the rim of the Indian Ocean.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who served as the United Nations special envoy for tsunami recovery, Saturday said the region had done more than just "build back" from the disaster, but had, "built back better."

The devastation in the tsunami-hit Asian nations elicited an outpouring of generosity from around the world. The head of the International Red Cross Federation's Tsunami unit, Al Panico, said his organization received almost $3 billion, 70 percent of it from the general public.

The tsunami was triggered by an undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 that struck off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Over the next seven hours, a wall of water reached across the Indian Ocean, devastating coastal areas as far away as East Africa.

In a coincidence, a strong earthquake struck Indonesia on Saturday just before 6 p.m. local time (0857 UTC). The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, with a 6.0 magnitude, was centered in the Banda Sea region off the Tanimbar Islands. A tsunami warning was not issued by authorities, and there were no reports of injuries or serious damage.

In the 2004 tsunami, some locations reported waves of nine meters or more on the shoreline. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives and Thailand sustained massive damage.

Tens of thousands were reported dead or missing in Sri Lanka and India, a large number of them on the Indian Andaman and Nicobar Islands territory. The low-lying island country of the Maldives reported more than 100 casualties and immense economic damage. Several thousand tourists vacationing in the region also were reported dead or missing.

The lack of food, clean water and medical treatment extended the list of casualties.

Long-term environmental damage was severe as well, with villages, tourist resorts, farmland and fishing grounds demolished or inundated with debris, bodies and plant-killing salt water.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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