Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pulau Weh 2008: Part 2

Flying into Banda Acheh was indeed an eye opener. On Boxing Day 2004, the Northern Sumateran city was hit by first, an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale and minutes later, a tsunami that completely swamped the entire town. Four years on, the place is still reeling from the devastation as evident from the aerial view.

Everywhere we could see remnants of the destruction that is yet to be cleared - boats left high and dry, empty shells of houses overrun by tall grass and creepers, and pools of sea water that have not been fully drained.

I could feel a sense of hopelessness pervading the land, even though it was evident that the people here are trying their best to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.

I got a very weird feeling as we were brought to various sites that the tsunami destroyed, wondering if it was appropriate for us to be doing the 'tourist thing' here when the locals have lost everything they got including their loved ones and here we were, posing next to the ruins, snapping pictures as if it were the Colosseum.

A lot of countries like Japan, Kuwait and the US as well as multinational companies like Coca Cola have provided the funds to rebuild the infrastructure in Banda Acheh and other devastated parts of Sumatera.

These benevolent parties have also sponsored motorised trishaws, trucks and small stalls to provide some livelihood for the survivors of the tragedy.

It was quite a sight to see this big fishing boat perched atop this house. The owner of the house decided not to take it down and has since built a walkway up to the stern to provide tourists a safer way to climb to the boat.

Seeing the belly of the boat from below is definitely a very weird experience, and one which I shall not forget for a long while.

We also got to see the famous mosque that miraculously survived the tsunami when everything else around it was destroyed. It was actually quite a small building , which made it even more amazing that it managed to stand intact.

Here's something familiar - an Astro satelite dish. Actually they were everywhere. I guess people here are crazy about Akademi Fantasia as well. I wonder how they managed to smuggle the dishes through Customs. ;)

The highlight of our 'tour' had to be the grounded barge. As we were brought to this factory-like structure, I was wondering why they would bother to show us such a common building.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that it was actually a 150 metre barge! Right here, in the middle of a housing estate, miles away from the harbour! Can you imagine the force of the rushing waters that dragged this behemoth so far inland?

As we walked around this 'thing' I got a bit nauseaus when I read this graffiti on the side of the barge - 'di bawah kapal masih ada mayat' - which means 'underneath this ship there are still corpses'.

There was a small blue donation box next to the barge to benefit the victims of the tsunami. Written on one side of the box was a mnemonic (?) for the word 'tsunami', lest we forget. "Tuhan Suruh Umat Nabi Agar Manusia Insaf "- which I roughly understood as "God called upon this so that people may repent".

It was almost too much for me to bear.

1 comment:

astherlau said...

Beautiful photos. You should've done the photo shoots instead of me on my recent assignment. ;P