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Commemorations Held On 15th Anniversary Of Boxing Day Tsunami

It has been 15 years since a 9.1 magnitude quake off the coast of Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in 14 countries.

When the quake opened a faultline deep beneath the Indian Ocean, it triggered a wave as high as 17.4 meters (57 feet), wiping some communities off the map in seconds.

The Indonesian province of Northern Aceh province bore the brunt of the disaster, where a total of 128,858 people were killed, according to statistics compiled by the government and aid agencies.

BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA - JANUARY 10: A young boy injured in the tsunami disaster undergoes treatment at a hospital with his parents January 10, 2005. Image: Getty
Commemorations Held On Anniversary

On Thursday, communities across Asia commemorated victims on the 15th anniversary of what's considered one of the world's most deadly disasters.

Memorials were scheduled in Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka.

BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA: A picture taken 14 January 2005 shows the mosque in the middle of the devastated town of Banda Aceh. Image: Getty

At memorials in Thailand, officials called for more awareness and preparedness for disasters.

"The government wants to lift safety standards ... and build awareness across all sectors in preparing and protecting people against disasters," Deputy Interior Minister, Nipon Bunyamanee, said.

He said December 26 had been designated national accident prevention day.

An interfaith service for Muslim, Christian and Buddhist victims was also held, while survivors from Ban Nam Khem, the worst-hit Thai village, were expected to hold a candlelight vigil in the evening.

How The Disaster Unfolded

Day by day, the death toll rose, as bodies littered the streets, waiting to be collected, and others continued to wash ashore, decaying among piles of debris.

Hospitals and morgues struggled to cope with injured and bewildered victims and bloated corpses.

KRABI, THAILAND: File photo dated 26 December 2004 shows tourists caught by the first of six tsunami rolling towards Hat Rai Lay Beach, near Krabi in southern Thailand, following a 9.2-Richter submarine earthquake. Image: Getty
This photo taken 26 December 2004 shows people fleeing as a tsunami wave comes crashing ashore at Koh Raya, part of Thailand's territory in the Andaman islands. Image: Getty
KRABI, THAILAND: A family of injured foreign tourists boards a pick-up truck after being evacuated from an island resort off Krabi, southern Thailand, 27 December 2004. Image: Getty

Over 570,000 people were displaced and 179,000 buildings and homes destroyed in Indonesia as the wave swallowed large parts of the coastline. Massive reconstruction aid in Banda Aceh has since rebuilt a new city on top of the ruins.

Sri Lanka was the next worst-affected country with a death toll of about 40,000, while in Thailand almost 5,400 people were killed including many foreign tourists.

GALLE, SRI LANKA: An aerial shot taken from a helicopter shows boats lying on a road after being washed up from the sea by tsunamis in the Galle district in the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka, 27 December 2004. Image: Getty
PHUKET, THAILAND - DECEMBER 27: British tourists console each other at the Phuket City Hall where hundreds of tourists who are missing friends and family members wait for help at the makeshift crisis center on December 27, 2004 in Phuket, Thailand. Image: Getty

In India, nearly 42,000 people, or close to 10,000 families, were rendered homeless by the waves that struck islands off the eastern coast. More than 3,500 people were killed and nearly 9,000 died on the mainland, mostly in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

The tsunami garnered an enormous international response, with an estimated $13.6 billion in official aid and private donations pledged for the recovery.

WARMLEY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 7: Prince William and Prince Harry are seen at a Red Cross depot where they volunteered to help pack tsunami aid items bound for the Maldives at a Red Cross depot. Image: Getty
BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA: Special Malaysia Disaster Rescue Team help Indonesian troops to unload aid donation boxes. Image: Getty
NIAS, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 29: A man, girl and dog cross deep water at Sirombu village. Image: Getty
WARNING SYSTEM

Those killed in 2004 received no formal warning of the approaching waves and had almost no chance to get out of the way.

Since then, millions of dollars have gone into a vast network of seismic and tsunami information centers, setting up sea and coastal instruments and erecting warning towers.

More than $400 million has been spent across 28 countries on the early-warning system, comprising 101 sea-level gauges, 148 seismometers and nine buoys.

POTSDAM, GERMANY: Rainer Kind, professor for geophysics, points on a map displaying the propagation of the seismic waves after the Sumatra quake, 14 January 2005 at the Geo Science Center in Potsdam. Image: Getty

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