Friday, 13 April 2012


Indonesia Tsunami Pictures: Banda Aceh, Then and Now
By Christine Dell'Amore,
National Geographic News, 11 April 2012.

Racing for Higher Ground

Indonesia tsunami picture: residents run for higher groundPhotograph by Heri Juanda, AP.

Pictured above, panicked residents of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, head for higher ground after a magnitude 8.6 earthquake hit off the island of Sumatra (map) on Wednesday. A tsunami warning was issued but later cancelled, and there are no reports so far of deaths or damage. (See "No Tsunami? Why Earthquake Spared Indonesia Today.")

Becca Skinner, a National Geographic Society young explorer, travelled to Aceh Province in 2011 to photograph the region seven years after a tsunami had killed some 170,000 people there. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)

Skinner found a boom in new construction and a general lack of bitterness from the people, some of whom believed the tsunami had been divine punishment. (See pictures of the 2004 Banda Aceh tsunami aftermath.)

After the Aceh project, she said, "everything else seems really easy now. It was a really eye-opening experience."

Devastation From the Air

Indonesia tsunami picture: devastation after 2004 tsunamiPhotograph by Dimas Ardian, Getty Images.

In the above picture, an aerial shot taken from a U.S. Navy helicopter shows the tsunami devastation in Banda Aceh on January 8, 2005. The magnitude 9.1 December 2004 quake washed away entire communities, killing more than 200,000 people in 14 countries, according to CNN.

"Reading the news headlines today," Skinner, 21, said on Wednesday, it "was so exciting to see that people knew what to do this time around - they ran for higher ground - because there was a lack of education before."

In 2011 Skinner - on her first trip abroad - had photographed sites that were exhaustively chronicled in 2004 and 2005. The journey was part of a National Geographic-sponsored effort to "inspire collective concern for cultural recovery following devastating natural disasters," according to Skinner's grant application.

Tsunami Symbol

Indonesia tsunami picture: mosque washed into fieldPhotograph by Becca Skinner, National Geographic.

Wan (above picture), who owns this Banda Aceh rice field, holds a picture of a tsunami-tossed mosque top taken in 2005.

Swept a distance of about 1.2 miles (2 kilometres), the structure has now "been turned into kind of a monument and memorial for tsunami victims," said Skinner, who said this is her favourite photograph of the trip.

"At night they light up the top of the mosque, and you can see it from the road. It's a really cool symbol of the power of nature and remembering the victims."

City in Ruin

Indonesia tsunami picture: Banda Aceh after the 2004 tsunamiPhotograph by Jean-Luc Luyssen, Getty Images.

Above picture, Banda Aceh lies in shambles following the tsunami on January 12, 2005.

Many eyewitnesses compared the post-tsunami scene in Banda Aceh to that of Hiroshima, Japan, after it had been hit by an atomic bomb during World War II.

In 2011, Skinner said, "a lot of the buildings had been torn down, and there were little to no signs of the tsunami."

Surveying the Damage

Indonesia tsunami picture: devastation after the 2004 tsunamiPhotograph by Joel Saget, Getty Images.

Above picture, a helicopter from the French naval ship Jeanne d'Arc hovers over the devastated town of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on January 14, 2005.

[Note the Al-Ikhlas (Lhoknga) Mosque that remained intact. Watch this video.]

The Indian Ocean tsunami caused waves as high as 50 feet (15 meters) in some places, according to news reports.

But in many other places witnesses described a rapid surging of the ocean, more like an extremely powerful river or a flood than the advance and retreat of giant waves.

A River Runs Through It

Indonesia tsunami picture: A restored Banda Aceh Photograph by Becca Skinner, National Geographic.

Pictured above, a river runs through downtown Banda Aceh in 2011.

"Despite the continued threat for tsunamis and earthquakes, most of the city has been built close to the coasts, where it was previously," Skinner said. (Related: "Tsunami Region Ripe for Another Big Quake, Study Says.")

Even so, since the 2004 disaster, the American Red Cross and Indonesian Red Cross have created a "really large push for education and preparedness" in Aceh Province, she said.

Life Goes On

Indonesia tsunami picture: inside a wrecked hospitalPhotograph by Becca Skinner, National Geographic.

Life goes on outside a tsunami-shattered hospital in Ulee Lhuee, Banda Aceh, in 2011.

But inside, the vine-choked halls are littered with clothing, shoes, and other possessions left behind from victims of the disaster.

"It was a really interesting contrast," Skinner said.

[Source: National Geographic News. Edited. Top image added.]

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