Tsunami Survivor: Banda Aceh Is Still Vulnerable
ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Eric Westervelt sitting in for Scott Simon. Ten years ago, a devastating tsunami struck and killed more than 200,000 people in 12 Asian countries around the Indian Ocean Rim. In some places, entire villages were swept away. It was one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. The hardest hit with the Indonesian province of Aceh is the city of Banda Aceh. Many towns have since been rebuilt in a highly successful relief and reconstruction effort. Rina Meutia was born and raised in Banda Aceh and she survived the 2004 tsunami there. She joins us now from Banda Aceh. Welcome to the program, Rina.
RINA MEUTIA: Hi. Thank you very much.
WESTERVELT: Tell us a little bit - where you were that day a decade ago when the earthquake and then the tsunami struck.
MEUTIA: I was at home in Banda Aceh. And the earthquake happened early in the morning around 8. And it was a big one, so we ran outside, and the second earthquake came, and then the third one. And then the water came while we had the third earthquake.
WESTERVELT: What memory sticks with you most that day from when the water hit?
MEUTIA: First of all, we did not know that there was a tsunami, so it was just very sudden. And the water basically came and it was like a big helicopter sound. My biggest memory, of course, I thought it was the judgment day. You know, everyone's running and crying. And we run to the mosque, not because we thought the mosque could save us or because the mosque was the strongest building, but we thought if, you know, if you have to die, then probably mosque is the best place to die given we are all Muslims.
WESTERVELT: You worked on disaster relief and recovery. Tell us how the rebuilding went in your town.
MEUTIA: Yes, I work on disaster risk management. I mean, I'm focusing on the mitigation issues. Aceh now looks beautiful. Like, look at the physical infrastructures, it's even better than before the tsunami. New roads - even probably one of the best at the national level. And new houses, hospitals, everything's new. So it's all very good. Although I have to say, in terms of disaster risk management, it's still very vulnerable. The government has not yet integrated disaster risk management in the development plan. And I'm just being honest, there's more work to be done.
WESTERVELT: Rina, as you say, the tsunami struck without warning - without a lot of warning systems in place. Is the region better prepared today?
MEUTIA: To be honest with you, not quite. We do have all the sirens and the early warning, you know, tools and everything. But in terms of culture, I don't think we are better prepared to be honest with you. Aceh has been experiencing a lot of other type of disasters like floods and droughts and landsides, and we're still not doing very well. And people still suffer from other type of disasters. So it seems like we haven't really, you know, realized the risk that we have.
WESTERVELT: Rina Meutia joined us from Banda Aceh. Thanks so much for being with us.
MEUTIA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.