Trauma of 2004 tsunami lingers on for Kedah villagers

The Star, 26 Dec 2013

PANTAI MERDEKA: Nine years on and the tsunami which swept several villages here and its effects are still evident to this day.

The tsunami, triggered by a massive underwater earthquake off Acheh in Indonesia before noon on Dec 26, 2004, is still fresh in the memory of the villagers in Kampung Kepala Jalan, Kampung Tepi Sungai, Kampung Masjid and Kampung Hujong Matang in Kota Kuala Muda.

A Bernama survey found that the tsunami had brought many changes to the settlements and pattern of life of the local people. Many were left traumatised and worried that the incident might reoccur.

Apart from a sculpture of a pile of boats built at the junction of the main routes into the area and a row of houses destroyed by the tsunami waves which was surrounded by a specially-constructed fence by the local authorities, the affected residents now build their houses farther from the shore.

Mansor Morad, 66, said his house in Kampung Tepi Sungai which was close to the shore was not spared from the tsunami waves, but he was thankful that it was not completely destroyed.

Recalling the tragedy, Mansor said he, with his wife, family members and neighbours gathered on a brick wall to see the strange phenomenon on the beach after they heard a loud windy noise like that of an aircraft’s coming from the sea.

“The sea is no stranger to fishermen like me, but the incident makes my hair ‘stand up’. The first wave came very fast making us run helter-skelter and close on our heels came a higher wave destroying many homes and killing more than 10 villagers,” he said.

The incident left Yusoff Yahya, 72, from Kampung Masjid, traumatised after the waves nearly swept him away. He survived survived by clinging to a mango tree near his house.

“Two other brothers also clung to me, I hugged the tree tightly so as not to be swept away. My house was not badly affected, but the events that took place nine years ago will always be remembered. We could not sleep well for a week.

“But due to the incident many changes have been made in terms of security, like installing alarm systems to provide tsunami warnings to local residents,” he said.

Yusoff added that on the day of the tsunami there were no changes in the weather and no severe flooding, but he prayed the events that left an indelible mark in his life hopefully will not happen again.

On that faithful day, one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded struck off the west coast of Aceh, Indonesia, triggering massive tsunami waves that cut a path of destruction across borders.

The earthquake and tsunami killed over 230,000 people and up to five million people lost their homes.