Devastated city shakes but its people stand firm

  • ASEAN+
  • Friday, 07 Jan 2005

BANDA ACEH: Fresh tremors sent the hungry and homeless running for their lives yesterday as the skeleton of this city shook but its people were determined they would survive and rebuild their lives. 

“The quake can happen anywhere. I'm from here, I feel comfortable here and I intend to stay,” said Cut Yusri, 50, as she queued for rice, noodles and cooking oil at an aid station.  

Indonesia's northern Aceh province and its local capital Banda Aceh, once a city of more than 300,000 on the northern tip of Sumatra, bore the full brunt of the tsunami's wrath. 

Nearly 100,000 people, about two-thirds of all those killed in Asia by the tsunami which struck six nations across the Indian Ocean on Dec 26, died in Aceh. 

Banda Aceh was left flattened and splintered. 

With much of the city looted, people are forced to scavenge among the rubble, littered with dozens of boats tossed from the sea, as Indonesian troops patrol the streets. 

Even a soldier involved in the clean-up is armed as he drives a bulldozer – a reminder that Aceh is a troubled province wrecked by a secessionist conflict. 

Witnesses said they heard gunshots yesterday, allegedly between the military and members of the Aceh Free Movement (GAM) near the airport where aid was being distributed. 

Two men on a motorcycle said they stopped when they heard the shots, then rode towards the noise and discovered three bodies believed to be of GAM members. 

There was no immediate confirmation of the shooting but the military said violent clashes have erupted in the past two days in the area. 

For three decades the province has been the site of a simmering separatist rebellion that has left at least 12,000 dead, most of them civilians. 

United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland has called on governments and rebels in tsunami-hit Sumatra, Sri Lanka and Somalia to keep the peace or risk aid totalling US$3.7bil (RM14bil).  

“We need that ceasefire, that peace, to hold because if new conflict breaks out, we cannot help the people,” Egeland said on Wednesday. – Reuters  

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