South Asia: Tsunami 26.12.2004 - A tribute
On 26 December 2004, the worlds of more than 2 lion people are turned upside down. An earthquake under the Indian Ocean triggers immense sea waves which crash through coastal towns as they strike land in 12 countries from Indonesia to Somalia, destroying everything in their path.
In a few minutes, towns are reduced to muddy rubble, families torn apart by death and grief, and livelihoods wiped out. The little-known word "tsunami" becomes a household name. The scale of the disaster, touching so many countries so far apart, is unprecedented.
These photographs are an insight into eight months that follow the tsunami, and are published as a tribute to all those people whose lives it affected and in memory of those who died.
We can only support those who lost relatives, homes, jobs and possessions. We can only admire their resilience and courage as they pick up the pieces of their lives in the most painful of circumstances. We can only thank those who reached out to help friends and strangers in the aftermath; putting humanity into action.
For the Red Cross Red Crescent, the tsunami became its largest ever relief operation. Across the affected countries, some 25,000 Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers offered help, distributing food, tents and toiletries, collecting dead bodies, clearing rubble and carrying out first aid. Many of them were themselves victims of the tsunami, yet their dedication never failed.
Around the world, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies sent personnel and flew planeloads of relief supplies to the affected areas, so that survivors could be given the basic essentials: food, water, shelter and medical help.
Captured by television cameras and broadcast into millions of homes worldwide, the tsunami prompted a huge outpouring of public support as people, moved by the tragedy, offered donations to the relief effort.
The funds raised are allowing the Red Cross Red Crescent to help people rebuild their lives, from constructing new homes to funding new livelihood opportunities, and to continue providing food, water and essential supplies until local economies are rebuilt. In addition, the Red Cross Red Crescent can promote and drive more programmes to prepare disaster-prone communities to act in the event of an emergency, and therefore help reduce the impact.
Beyond these few words, we would like the photographs to speak for themselves.
Special representative for the tsunami
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
1. Damage and destruction
Sunday, 26 December 2004. A powerful earthquake, of a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale, erupts under the Indian Ocean. It sends out tsunamis huge waves which travel thousands of kilometres to crash ashore where they hit land to the west, north and east. The impact is devastating.
Witnesses watch stunned as a huge wall of water rolls onto the shore, taking with it everything in its path. People are carried helplessly in a massive body of water, sand and debris that surges through streets, flattens buildings and rips up trees. Boats are pulled inland then left stranded as the sea retreats.
In a few hours, the tsunami takes more than 200,000 lives and affects the lives of 2.3 million people in 12 countries. Fields of mud and piles of rubble lie where once people lived and worked. Families are torn apart by death.
For those that survived, the next days, weeks and months are times of confusion, shock, disbelief, pain, fear and insecurity. But they are also days of immense human courage in the most awful of tragedies.
2. Devastated lives
In the weeks after the tsunami, the extent of the damage to reveals itself. The death toll rises, people search for missing friends and family members, checking lists and notice boards, suffering the agony of not knowing if their loved ones are dead or alive.
Shops and businesses lay in ruins, fishermen wonder how to make a living with their boats broken. There is little to salvage. People wonder "Why us?", and begin to fear the sea. The smell of death hangs in the air. The grief is overwhelming as people mourn the dead, clinging to photos. They worry about their futures and their children.
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