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10th anniversary of the tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean

Federal President Joachim Gauck Federal President Joachim Gauck © Jesco Denzel

Today, my thoughts are with all of those for whom for the past ten years 26 December has been a day of mourning.

In 2004 a tsunami in the Indian Ocean claimed the lives of more than 230,000 people. The images of the incident are just as shocking today as they were at the time: the panic, chaos, the sheer force of the huge wave. And then the devastation: destroyed houses, trees, streets, great masses of mud and rubble, countless lifeless bodies. In between came injured men, women and children, silent with shock or desperately calling out to their relatives.

The events often still weigh heavily on those who survived. The fear of drowning, the loss of loved ones, and days if not weeks of uncertainty about whether people were lost forever have all left their mark. For many, 26 December is a day of terror caused by their own trauma.

Other eye witnesses say: I do not just remember the fear, I remember the great willingness to help that I experienced. They speak of courageous people who became lifesavers and who shared the little that they themselves still had. Locals and tourists found themselves in a situation in which they had a shared destiny, a bond which can still be felt today. Indeed, ten years after the disaster, people from many regions of the world – parents who lost their children, sons and daughters who lost their parents, partners and friends who survived – will gather on the beaches where the tsunami struck in 2004. They will remember those who died and at the same time show gratitude for the solidarity which they were shown.

I would like to add my voice to theirs and express thanks – both on behalf of myself and of the German victims and their families. This goes to the helpers, the doctors and counsellors. It goes to the forensic scientists and undertakers who worked extremely hard for months on end. It also goes to the millions of donors around the world, public as well as private – the schools, churches, associations and municipalities who made it possible to provide emergency aid and set up long-term projects such as the new tsunami early warning system. And of course I would like to thank the people on the ground, whose commitment and perseverance carried the unprecedented reconstruction. Despite all the sorrow which resonates with 26 December every year, the date has also become an international symbol of the power that can come from solidarity on both a small and large scale.