BANDA ACEH, Indonesia – Nobody in Indonesia’s Banda Aceh, severely affected by the 2004 tsunami, and especially the Lampulo neighborhood, has forgotten the boat that drifted ashore and saved dozens of people.
The vessel has been left on the rooftops as a symbol of deliverance as well as the tragedy that claimed the lives of at least 280,000 people in several countries around the Indian Ocean.
On the 13th anniversary Tuesday of the disaster in the Indonesian province of Aceh, where some 167,000 died, people held prayer services for the victims and visited cemeteries.
On Dec. 26, 2004 in Lampulo, a 25-meter (82-foot) fishing boat served as a refuge for 59 people after the sea waters rushed more than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) inland, leaving several houses stranded.
Fauziah Basyariah, a local businesswoman, recalled the earthquake, the successive waves that were up to 30 meters high and the miraculous appearance of a boat, which has now been kept as a monument and a tourist attraction in the neighborhood.
Following the massive earthquake, Basyariah went out of her house with her five children – including a 5-month old baby – and after the tsunami came half an hour later, they took shelter in a house that was still intact.
“After the second large wave, this boat came. At that moment, we were trapped in the attic. We were almost glued to the ceiling. The water level was high and I was trying to save my baby,” Basyariah, 50, told EFE.
The Indonesian woman, who lost her husband and nine family members that day, said that her sons made a hole in the roof of the house through which they managed to reach the boat and take shelter until the water receded.
M Yusuf, who runs a grocery shop in the neighborhood, said how they were then unaware of the dangers of a tsunami.
“After the earthquake, I went to have a coffee at a bar. Suddenly a young man came running from the north and shouted, ‘the water is rising, the water is rising,’ but the young people there made fun of him,” Yusuf said.
Later, when the people saw the water advance, Yusuf – who back then used to drive a motorized three-wheeler – escaped in his vehicle with his father to another area, while his family fled in another direction.
“When the water receded, I hurried to my street and when I reached it I saw bodies scattered everywhere. My mind went blank,” said Yusuf, who never found his wife and children and has now remarried.
Sri Wahyuni, another resident of Lampulo, said that now there are protocols for evacuation and the people are prepared to move towards higher areas.
She said that was impossible to erase the memories of that day when she lost her daughter while trying to take refuge on the second floor of a mosque.
“My daughter said, ‘mother, it is the end of the world.’ I heard her and cried, then she added ‘mother, you said that if the apocalypse happens, everyone will die,’ and she hugged me and said ‘forgive me, forgive me,’” Wahyuni recalled.
“The third wave came, she left my arms and was carried away by the waves,” she said in front of the miracle fishing boat.