Asian Tsunami Anniversary: LIVE REPORT

Moira SHAW
1 / 17

Candles light up Phuket Island's tsunami-hit Patong Beach, 31 January 2005, as hundreds attended a candlelight vigil

Candles light up Phuket Island's tsunami-hit Patong Beach, 31 January 2005, as hundreds attended a candlelight vigil (AFP Photo/Frederic J. Brown)

Banda Aceh (Indonesia) (AFP) - 13:40 GMT - AFP IS CLOSING THIS LIVE REPORT - on remembering the 220,000 people who died on Boxing Day a decade ago when an earthquake off the coast of Indonesia triggered devastating tsunami waves, which ripped through coastal areas of the Indian Ocean in one of the worst natural disasters in human history.

In Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, victims' friends and relatives, officials and others gathered to light candles, observe a minute's silence or just visit memorial sites.

Foreign victims holidaying on sun-kissed beaches when the disaster struck, ensuring the tragedy hit families around the globe.

While much of the destruction caused by the tsunami has been repaired, much was lost -- a Red Cross display of hundreds of salvaged ID documents and bank cards served as grim reminder that many victims simply vanished.

12:49 GMT - Patong beach - Hundreds of Thai and foreign nationals observed a minute’s silence on Patong beach on the resort island of Phuket before lighting white candles in memory of the dead.

Afterwards many of those gathered placed the candles into a sand sculpture created by students as part of the memorial service.

11:52 GMT - Minute's silence in the rain - Thai PM Prayut Chan-O-Cha leads at the Khao Lak ceremony: "I want to take this opportunity to pay respect to those Thai and foreign nationals who lost their lives in the tsunami."

A minute's silence under light rain was broken by a lone trumpeter, as the massed ranks of mourners then lit white candles, illuminating the darkness.

11:44 GMT - Never again - Margareta Wahlstrom, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk reduction:

"Ten years ago the unthinkable happened ... destruction of a scale we found hard to understand."

The new Indian Ocean warning system "should ensure we never again see the loss of life on the scale that we saw 10 years ago".

10:48 GMT - Official Thai ceremony - The Bangkok symphony orchestra is playing live in Khao Lak.

Soldiers dressed in red and black uniforms are standing on stage before Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha starts the official ceremony.

10:18 GMT - Katia's story 2 - "I was pushed under water many times and thought it was the end, I couldn't breathe."

"I grabbed whatever I could, calling out to people who I then realised were bodies. At last I managed to hold onto a branch," she said. When the wave retreated she found herself six metres off the ground. The second wave came up to the branch but didn't knock her off and she realised she had to get down eventually, reaching road where a van took her to hospital.

She returned to Khao Lak nine months later with money she had raised, 20,000 euros.

10:15 GMT - Katia's story - Katia Paulo, 45, from Switzerland lost her boyfriend in Khao Lak in the tsunami. His body was found one month after the disaster.

"I had my back to the ocean. My boyfriend called me. The only thing I remember is his face. I knew I had to run away, then the wave caught me," she told AFP's Preeti Jha.

"It was like being in a washing machine"

09:37 GMT - Thai remembrance - Around 500 people gathered ahead of the official Thai remembrance ceremony in Khao Lak outside patrol boat 813, which was swept around two kilometres inland when the giant waves struck 10 years ago.

Officials and soldiers wearing black, Thai and foreign tsunami survivors as well as tourists dressed in shorts and vests gathered to pay their respects to the dead.

Sakke Salminen, 26, from Finland, who works in Khao Lak as a dive instructor, came to pay his respects. "I think it's important to remember the people who died, there were many Finnish people affected."

08:11 GMT - A day after the disaster, stranded tourists use phones provided for free at a Buddhist temple in Khao Lak, Thailand, so they can make international calls to give news to relatives and friends abroad

08:10 GMT - Highly Vulnerable - The United Nations Development Programme on its website has drawn attention to the damage done to the Maldives, one of the smallest countries hit by the tsunami.

It claimed 100 lives, displaced 16,000 people and when the financial costs were tallied the damages and losses totalled US$ 470 million.

“This impact, while less dramatic than in other countries, was immense for the Maldives. Whole islands were rendered uninhabitable, a substantial proportion of the population was displaced, and the equivalent of more than 60% of GDP was destroyed in what seemed like a flash." the UNDP says.

“It illustrated all too starkly Maldives’ extremely high vulnerability to disaster. Such vulnerability arises from geographical, topographical and socio-economic factors that range across the country’s nearly 200 populated islands, the vast majority of which lie just one metre above sea level.”

07:54 GMT - New Families - Muhammad Zubedy Koteng, who worked with UNICEF on child protection in Aceh after the tsunami, has told AFP that forming new families was an effective way for many to "cure their trauma" and help them "deal with their loneliness and overcome the sorrow of losing their loved ones".

Some, such as labourer Syukri, helped youngsters left orphaned by the disaster. While wandering desperately round shelters looking for his missing brother, he spotted an abandoned baby boy lying in the undergrowth.

"I saw him lying in the bushes, with a swollen stomach and head, and scabs on his body," the 45-year-old, who goes by one name, told AFP. He took him in and a decade later, the boy remains part of Syukri's family with his other children and wife.

07:43 GMT - Thai workers in protective suits walk past bodies of unidentified tsunami victims laid out in a mass grave in Bang Mak Roang temple in Takua Pa, on January 6, 2005

07:42 GMT - Managing Disaster - Indonesian Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director of the World Bank, flew to Aceh the day after the disaster. She writes now in The World Post: “Ten years after the tsunami, I remember the loss of lives not only as the tragedy it was, but as a moment that changed the way the world manages disasters. I take some consolation from the fact that people survive disasters more often today because of the lessons we learned from the tsunami that affected so many of my fellow Indonesians.”

As corruption and misuse of aid funds were of concern to some donors, she says she convinced the World Bank to set up a fund in which donors could pool their contributions. It was worth nearly $700 million, the largest fund the Bank has ever managed, she says.

07:35 GMT - Disaster Prone - “A decade after the Indian Ocean tsunami struck, the Asia-Pacific region remains highly disaster prone and critical gaps remain in early warning, especially in reaching the most vulnerable people and remote communities,” a United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific official has warned.

“An efficient end-to-end system is yet to be realized.”

Shamika N. Sirimanne, ESCAP’s Director of Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division was talking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand last week to mark the 10th anniversary of the disaster.

07:22 GMT -

Sri Lankan villagers look at the derailed Ocean Queen Express in Sinigame, near the town of Hikaduwa on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka three days after the train was swept away by the tsunami.

07:21 GMT - Identifying the Dead - In what was to become the world’s largest forensics investigation, the nightmare continued long after the waves had receded for those trying to find loved ones and identify the dead washed up on the beaches and found in collapsed buildings.

Porntip Rojanasunan, director-general of the Central Institute of Forensic Science in Bangkok, led the mass forensics operation in the initial period after the disaster.

AFP spoke to her on the phone Friday ahead of the ceremony in Khao Lak. “It was chaotic. No one knew how severe the loss or injury was. No one had experience of a tsunami.

The Thai authorities, she said, were not prepared for such an event and had to call on international experts. “I called teams from Australia, the UK and the US.”

“I found that around 70 percent of the bodies in Phang Nga were foreigners. I had to prevent their bodies from decomposing.” She recalls how they used dry ice on the first day before a private company donated a refrigerator.

“I took photos of specific items found with the bodies to help relatives to identify them. The number of dead was too much.”

07:07 GMT - Andaman and Nicobar - The Andaman and Nicobar administration observed the 10th anniversary with a wreath-laying ceremony by Lieutenant Governor A.K. Singh at the Tsunami Memorial built on the island after the tragedy, AFP’s Abhaya Srivastava reports.

An inter-religious prayer meeting was also held and attended by families of tsunami victims.

"The memorial was quite an emotional affair, befitting the scale of the tragedy," an official in the lieutenant governor's office said, requesting anonymity.

The Andaman and Nicobar is a chain of Indian-administered islands spanning the seas from Myanmar to Indonesia.

More than 2,000 people were declared dead and 5,555 missing in the Andamans, where the waves washed away 70% of its jetties, sank hundreds of boats and wrecked Port Blair's commercial harbour during the 2004 tsunami.

06:55 GMT - A Thai man tries to salvage items from his destroyed shoe shop, surrounded by a pile of cars along Patong beach in Phuket, southern Thailand a few days after the tsunami

06:54 GMT - Tsunami Kids - Orphaned by the 2004 tsunami, two British brothers have told their story in a book "Tsunami Kids" released this week and they have unveiled plans to build a Sri Lankan children's home, using funds from their flip-flop business.

Rob and Paul Forkan were aged 17 and 15 when the giant wave hit their hotel in Weligama, southern Sri Lanka, and survived by clinging onto a roof. Their two younger siblings, Rosie and Matty, also survived the disaster, but there was no sign of parents Sandra and Kevin.

After being told by hotel staff that their father's body had been found, the elder brothers led the family and hitch-hiked the 100 miles (160 kilometres) to Colombo before returning to Britain.

The home for orphans they are building and which is already under construction, is being funded by the sale of "Gandys" flip-flops, footwear used by celebrities including One Direction, Hollywood star Jessica Alba and singer Jessie J.

06:47 GMT - Relief Effort - In the immediate days after the disaster, many of the hardest hit nations struggled to mobilise a relief effort, leaving bloated bodies to pile up under the tropical sun or in makeshift morgues.

The world poured money and expertise into the relief and reconstruction, with more than $13.5 billion collected in the months after the disaster.

Almost $7 billion in aid went into rebuilding more than 140,000 houses across Aceh, thousands of kilometres of roads, and new schools and hospitals.

Tens of thousands of children were among the dead.

06:28 GMT - Survivor recounts horror of 2004 tsunami - Andy Chaggar was on holiday with his partner Nova Mills when the Indian Ocean tsunami smashed into their beachside bungalow in Thailand 10 years ago. He never saw Nova again. Duration: 02:02

06:24 GMT - Tsunami Scientists - After the 2004 tsunami, the United States nearly doubled its staff at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center from eight to 15, and its tsunami warning centres in Hawaii and Alaska continue to be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

International efforts are also ramping up to establish a tsunami warning centre in the Mediterranean.

"The scientific community of tsunami scientists has exploded since 2004," Eddie Bernard, scientist emeritus at NOAA, told a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco this week.

"There were probably 100 (tsunami) scientists in the world before 2004, now there are at least 1,000," he said.

"There is a whole generation of scientists now that are dedicated to this problem."

06:14 GMT - Thai children throw roses into the sea near the Ban Nam Khem tsunami memorial park wall in memory of the victims of the disaster in Phang-nga province

06:13 GMT - US Ambassador to Indonesia - US ambassador to Indonesia Robert O. Blake has told AFP: "As the American ambassador, I am very proud of the assistance that the American people were able to provide," after the 2004 disaster.

"Now I think all the donors, and particularly the government of Indonesia and the government of Aceh, can take great pride in what has transpired since then.

“Obviously, there's still more work to be done, but a lot of progress has been made.

"I feel very happy. I feel that the Acehnese have shown their strength, their courage, their resilience and I'm so impressed to hear that all the Acehnese came back after the crisis… they loved Aceh and they wanted to come back here. And that says a lot about the society and about the people here and we were again very proud to support that."

06:03 GMT - National Safety Day - Across Sri Lanka's coastlines, relatives are holding remembrance services while the government marked National Safety Day with ceremonies in the southern town of Hambantota where some 4,000 people were killed in the tsunami.

Retired school teacher Damayanthi Abeywardene joined the Ocean Queen Express train remembrance ceremony to pay thanks for her miraculous escape with her two daughters, then aged 16 and 19.

"No one should have to see what we saw. The struggle of people trying to stay alive... The hundreds of corpses," she said, breaking down.

05:47 GMT - Cars and parts of buildings churn in the surf on Marina beach in Madras, India, on December 26, 2004, as tidal waves hit the coast

05:46 GMT - Identification Cards - AFP’s Gianrigo Marletta in Aceh says inside the grounds of the park where the memorial is being held, the Red Cross has put up a glass wall displaying hundreds of ID cards, from bank ATM cards to identification cards of dead victims.

One woman who was among the steady group of locals scrutinizing the IDs on the wall, said, " I'm looking for my husband."

05:31 GMT - Peace from Disaster - The disaster helped end a three-decade-long separatist conflict that had killed 15,000 people in Aceh, Indonesia.

In mid-2005, the commanders of the Free Aceh Movement agreed to a peace accord. The rebels had spent years fighting against the central government for an independent state, and a heavy military presence had kept the area cut off from the outside world.

The disaster triggered a huge global relief and reconstruction effort in the area. The level of the destruction and scale of assistance needed finally persuaded the rebels and Jakarta to strike a peace deal that has held to this day.

05:24 GMT - Still Missing - Sri Lanka's Ocean Queen Express train stopped for a remembrance ceremony at the same spot it was hit by the Asian tsunami 10 years ago, killing about 1,000 passengers, AFP correspondent Claire Cozens reports.

Survivor Shanthi Gallage, 55, was on the train to pay respect to the victims. She says she still hopes to find her then 13-year-old daughter who is listed as missing.

"I think my husband died, but my daughter is still alive somewhere," she told AFP. "I will find her some day."

05:11 GMT - A Buddhist monk visits the Ban Nam Khem tsunami memorial park wall on the 10th anniversary of the 2004 disaster in Phang-nga province, Thailand

05:10 GMT - Don't Forget - Experts warn the memory of that fateful day is fading, taking with it the appetite for disaster preparedness.

"When you forget, you don't prepare," said Margareta Wahlstroem, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, tells AFP.

"Disaster amnesia" threatens to lower defences.

"You relax, and that's dangerous... One of the big challenges in reducing disaster-risk is to keep alive this understanding."

For example, in the tourist haven of Phuket, Thailand, population density has continued to rise along coastal areas as developers build on lucrative but high-risk shore-front areas.

And on Khao Lak, the coastal resort area flattened by the tsunami, the signs urging people to run to higher ground have faded.

05:04 GMT - The debris of houses destroyed by the tsunami are shown in this photo taken a day after the waves hit Galle, on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka

05:03 GMT - Running To Safety - Attending the Aceh memorial, survivor Lim Cejc, 56, an Acehnese of Chinese heritage, recalls how she and her husband ran away from the waves.

"I came here to join prayers to remember my sister-in-law, who died along with her husband and two children. Their bodies were never found. My husband and I managed to save our lives. We hopped on a motorcycle and sped off as the waves chased us from behind. When I returned, my house was damaged and I had to live in a shelter."

04:58 GMT - Warning System - To prevent avoidable losses again, the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System -- spanning the ocean and monitored by hubs in Indonesia, Australia and India -- began operations in 2011.

The network of tidal gauges, deep ocean buoys and seismic monitors is used to warn countries in the region of impending tsunamis.

Twenty-four countries around the Indian Ocean have also set up their own national warning centres.

Japan has invested in some of the best warning systems and tsunami awareness drives, which were tested in 2011 when an earthquake triggered a tsunami that killed more than 18,000.

04:36 GMT - Climate warning - US Secretary of State John Kerry says the tsunami sounded a warning on climate change. In a statement on the anniversary, Kerry said:

“I’ll never forget hearing the news of the tsunami that struck in the Indian Ocean 10 years ago. The images were gut-wrenching: entire towns razed from Indonesia to Somalia; raging waters sweeping away people’s homes; hundreds of thousands killed and many more separated from their families.

“Today of all days, we pause to remember those we lost—from farmers and fishers to travelers from our own lands. I know that there are no words to express such a horrific loss. There’s no way to wipe away the pain of parents who lost a child, or children who lost their parents and were forced to assume adult responsibilities at a tender age.

“It also sounded a warning. We know that many regions are already suffering historic floods and rising sea levels. And scientists have been saying for years that climate change could mean more frequent and disastrous storms, unless we stop and reverse course."

04:28 GMT - Survivors and family members of tsunami victims pray at a mass grave in Banda Aceh, northern Sumatra

04:19 GMT - Force of water - Tsunamis can extend inland by a thousand feet (300 meters) or more, National Geographic news says.

"The enormous force and weight of so much water sweeps away almost everything in its path.

"A tsunami is a series of waves, and the first wave may not be the most dangerous. A tsunami 'wave train' may come as surges five minutes to an hour apart. The cycle may be marked by repeated retreat and advance of the ocean."

"As many as a third of the people who died in the Indian Ocean tsunami were children; many of them would not have been strong enough to resist the force of the water. Many people were crushed by debris or when the sea hurled them against structures.

"Witnesses said the approaching tsunami sounded like three freight trains or the roar of a jet."

04:03 GMT - Policemen pray for their dead friends and relatives at a mass grave for victims of the December 26 tsunami in Banda Aceh, northern Sumatra

04:02 GMT - A Washing Machine - Raymond Moor, 58, from Switzerland, attending the Khao Lak ceremony with his wife, told AFP's Preeti Jha, that they come every year to remember those who died.

The former sailor, remembering the disaster in 2004, said he noticed something wasn't right when he spotted a white stripe on the horizon moving towards the Thai beach where he and his wife were having breakfast less than 30 metres from the shore.

"I told my wife to run for her life... It wasn't a wave but a black wall... It was like being in a washing machine,

"A Thai woman from the hotel saved my life by pulling me up to a balcony. She died later," he said, breaking down in tears.

03:52 GMT - How a tsunami occurs - Graphic on how a tsunami occurs.

03:51 GMT - British PM - British Prime Minister David Cameron has offered prayers for the victims and survivors of the disaster.

"Today we think of all those for whom Boxing Day is no longer a happy festive celebration but the day they lost a loved one in the Indian Ocean tsunami. At this poignant time, my prayers are with all those remembering people who were caught up in the disaster, including the 151 British nationals who lost their lives.

"In the face of tragedy and adversity, hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated real resilience to rebuild their lives and millions more have shown extraordinary generosity to help those affected. So, as we remember all those who died, we should take comfort from the communities that are now on the mend – places like Band Aceh where locals say it is now more prosperous, vibrant and peaceful than before."

03:43 GMT - Global impact - The entire international community was affected by the disaster. Along with the Thai victims, foreigners representing 37 nationalities, were killed.

European countries, including Sweden (543 dead), Germany (537), Finland (180), Britain (150), Switzerland (110), France (95), Denmark (50) and Norway (80), lost 1,700 people, mainly tourists seeking Christmas sun.

In the space of several hours at least 220,000 people died, of which nearly 170,000 were in Indonesia, 31,000 in Sri Lanka, 16,400 in India, and 5,400 in Thailand, according to an official count.

Two hundred people were killed in other Asian countries hit by the wave, while 300 perished in East Africa.

03:40 GMT - Show of Respect - In southern Thailand, where half of the 5,300 killed in the tsunami were foreign tourists, a smattering of holidaymakers have gathered at a memorial park in the small fishing village of Ban Nam Khem, in a reminder of the global scale of the disaster.

"Everyone knew someone affected by the tsunami, I knew people too. We want to show our respect," Agnes Moberg, 18, from Sweden, has told AFP.

Sweden lost more than 500 of its nationals and is due to honour its dead later Friday.

03:22 GMT - The devastated district of Banda Aceh on Indonesia's Sumatra island taken a few days after the massive December 26, 2004 tsunami and the same location (below) photographed on December 1, 2014 showing new houses and a rebuilt community.

03:21 GMT - Aid Helped Ties - Former Australian prime minister John Howard has told the Australian newspaper that Canberra's unprecedented aid to Indonesia after the devastating 2004 tsunami "brought our two countries closer together".

"I knew then that this was no ordinary disaster," says Howard, who was prime minister at the time.

"We allocated Aus$1 billion (US$810 million) for the aid package for Indonesia. It was the largest single aid contribution in Australia's history."

03:16 GMT - A day after the tsunami in 2004, residents in Banda Aceh carry the body of a dead relative across the rubble of their village. The vast majority, some 170,000 of the 220,000, deaths resulting from the earthquake and tsunami were in Indonesia.

03:15 GMT - Bodies stacked up - Briton Annie Kemp, 58, flew to Thailand to volunteer 48 hours after the tsunami. She has lived nearby ever since.

"The temple here (Ban Nam Khem) ran out of space because so many bodies were coming in," she tells AFP, remembering around 2,000 bodies, some stacked on top of each other.

"We would lift them onto tables for their teeth to be x-rayed," she said recounting working in temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius. People weren't prepared for what heat can do to bodies at that temperature.

03:02 GMT - An Awakening - "The disaster was also an awakening -- to become aware of our environment and continue to be vigilant and understand how to deal with disasters," Aceh governor Zaini Abdullah has told those at the memorial.

"Learning from our experience - we call for a strengthening of solidarity in handling disasters to lighten the load of disaster victims across the world."

- Solemn remembrance -

02:55 GMT - Aceh Governor - Aceh governor Zaini Abdullah, speaking in Bahasa has told the crowd at the memorial: "We are gathered here today to remember the historic disaster that took place on December 26. As far as we know, it was one of the biggest to have happened on the face of our Earth.

"This memorial will help us to remember the support given by the Indonesian government to help Aceh recover and rise again, which would have been impossible otherwise. We will also keep in mind the contributions from local and foreign donors."

He said the 10th anniversary will renew momentum to rebuild Aceh.

02:51 GMT - Phang Nga Remembers - A ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary will begin soon in Ban Nam Khem village, Thailand, according to AFP's Preeti Jha at the scene. The governor of Phang Nga province will give a speech.

An audience of some 300 people including local residents, government officials and charity workers are gathered for the commemoration.

02:43 GMT - Mass graves - Before the main memorial in Banda Aceh, survivors and family and friends of tsunami victims gathered in small groups at mosques and visited the mass graves built across the area.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla also visited one of the mass graves this morning.

02:43 GMT - A plaque for a tsunami victim at the Ban Nam Khem tsunami memorial park wall in Khao Lak, Thailand

02:42 GMT - Ocean Queen - The destruction of the Ocean Queen Express train and the death of more than 1,000 people on board has become a symbol of the disaster in Sri Lanka.

Survivor, 58-year-old train guard Wanigaratne Karunatilleke, says he knew nothing about tsunamis before the wave of water slammed into his train on the Sri Lankan coast.

He told AFP’s Amal Jayasinghe there was a 15-minute lull after the first wave hit the train and that many passengers might have been able to escape to high ground if people had been more knowledgeable about tsunamis.

He says he became trapped inside a compartment that was floating in the water, and managed to escape through a window.

02:28 GMT - A faded tsunami sign in Khao Lak, Thailand. Ten years after the deadliest tsunami on record wrought destruction across the Indian Ocean, authorities fear creeping complacency is undermining a hi-tech warning system built to prevent future disasters.

02:27 GMT - The Earth Shifted - On Sunday, December 26, 2004 at 7:58 am local time, a massive earthquake measuring 9.3 struck off Indonesia, unleashing a devastating tsunami which left more than 220,000 dead.

The strength of the quake -- the biggest in the world since 1964 -- was such that the Earth shifted -- unleashing a multi-metre wave that 30 minutes later devastated the Indonesian province of Aceh, to the north of Sumatra.

The wave also swept the whole of the Indian Ocean's shoreline, hitting the coasts of Sri Lanka, India -- especially the Andaman and Nicobar islands -- Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Maldives and Bangladesh.

Around six hours after the start of the disaster the coasts of East Africa -- Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya -- were reached by the tidal wave.

02:22 GMT - Tourists walk past a large poster for the 10th anniversary of the 2004 tsunami in Phang-nga province, Thailand

02:21 GMT - Vice President - AFP’s video journalist Gianrigo Marletta, covering the Banda Aceh memorial, says the Vice President of Indonesia Jusuf Kalla is attending.

- Painful memories -

02:15 GMT - Thailand tragedy - On Ban Nam Khem in southern Thailand, Somjai Somboon, 40, tells AFP she has come back to the beach to remember the day the deadly waves hit. Her house was flooded and she was separated from her children, she says. She survived but they didn't. She lost two young sons.

02:10 GMT - Tight Security - 02:13 GMT: Security is very tight, AFP's correspondent Nurdin Hasan, on the ground in Banda Aceh reports.

There are police and military guarding the ceremony, even on the roads, he says, quite different from in previous years. Dozens of people, including survivors who have travelled for hours from their villages, have been barred from entering the site. A few are crying as they have not been allowed in to the park to join the memorial.

02:09 GMT - National Anthem - The Indonesian national anthem has marked the start of the main ceremony in Banda Aceh, which has drawn several thousand people to a 20-acre park.

Banda Aceh is the main city of the Indonesian province eviscerated by the giant waves.

02:02 GMT - Memorials - 02:00 GMT: Today’s main memorials will start in Aceh, which was hit first by the waves, then it will move to Thailand where candlelit ceremonies will be held in the resort hubs of Phuket and Khao Lak.

There will also be events in Sri Lanka, including at the site where a train carrying 1,500 people was washed away, as well as in several European capitals to remember foreign nationals who perished.

01:59 GMT - WELCOME TO AFP’S LIVE REPORT ON THE ASIAN TSUNAMI 10TH ANNIVERSARY. On December 26, 2004 a 9.3-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia's western coast sparked a series of towering waves that wrought destruction to the coastal areas of 14 countries - including other parts of Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Somalia.

Thousands of people have gathered today in Indonesia's Aceh province, the epicentre of the Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed 220,00 people across the region.

Among the victims were thousands of foreign holidaymakers enjoying Christmas on the region's sun-kissed beaches, striking tragedy into homes around the world.