Losing Loved Ones to Tsunami: A Never Fading Memory

Shouts of, “Lari! Ombak datang lagi!” (Run! The waves are returning!). A wonderful sunny weekend turns to a black day for many families in Penang . The small island has always been famous for its beautiful beaches. Hundreds of tourist always visit this beautiful island. The world famous Batu Feringghi beach showed her different character on December 26. A huge tidal wave took more than 70 lives (many of them children) and destroyed hundreds of houses and other property. Many of them were having a family picnic as school holidays had begun. Batu Feringghi, Permatang Damar Laut and Kota Kuala Muda were badly affected by the tsunami. A staff member at Penang Hospital mortuary said, “We have never handled so many bodies in a single day. Every 20-30 minutes we were receiving dead bodies”.

Many families lost everything and moved to a temporary shelter. A bus driver Zulkifli Mat Noor, 43, lost his five children from Kampung Paya, Simpang Empat in Balik Pulau, Penang . Zulkifli and 12 other family members had gone for a picnic at Pantai Pasir Panjang on Sunday and were having lunch by the beach when the tidal waves hit them at about 1pm .  The tidal waves have destroyed more property in Kuala Muda, Kedah although more lives were lost in Penang , according to the Fire and Rescue Department. Tidal waves that pounded Kedah on Sunday destroyed 808 houses in 40 villages with damage estimated at RM 21.3 million. This is the hardest time for many families as most of the victims are not well off. Many family members tried their best to find belongings from their destroyed houses and fishing boats but it was hard to find anything except dirty mud.

School will reopen soon and many of the students lost their books, clothes, and other things. Most of the families don’t have the ability to buy new books and clothes for their children. But Malaysian government and non-government agencies were very quick to respond and the government ensured all kinds of help for the victims. The thousands of fishermen affected by the tsunami will be given various forms of aid to help them restart their lives. But those families who lost their loved ones will not be compensated by any means. In reality, life never stops people from returning to their broken homes and thinking about their future again.

But the people of Aceh in Indonesia were the worst victims of the earthquake and tsunami as the death toll reached 60,000. Most of them are Muslims and hundreds of them are still missing. Once a beautiful and historic city with its picturesque Baitur Rahman grand mosque a renowned landmark, Banda Aceh, the capital of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, has become a city of corpses in the wake of a monstrous tsunami that swept across it. The earthquake destroyed their houses and the tsunami washed away people and property. As insurgency continues in Aceh the Indonesian government and non-government agencies are taking their time to respond to the situation. The communication system has broken down and Aceh was separated from other parts of the country. Dead bodies were lying everywhere after four-days of Tsunami. As night fell four full days after the quake there was still no contact with many parts of the worst affected areas. Officials predicted the death toll could even triple as the full picture becomes clear. 

The authorities had said they would not wait any longer for relatives to come and claim the bodies that were lying around.  “They don’t want diseases to spread. So they are saying their prayers for the lot and burying them. They can’t perform individual burial rites. Most of the surviving families take shelter in camps and one bowl of rice is shared by seven people and one piece of salted fish has to be shared by five people. Supplies are running out, so please take note,” shouted Iman Ismail, a food distribution worker at the camp. The surviving families are looking for help from not only the Indonesian government but also from the Muslim Ummah. Most of the surviving families need basic necessities such as food, medicine, clothes and so on.  Like Dr. Jeshman”s family who lost their house and everything but they were lucky enough to save their lives. Many others are like them and living in a camp now. They are being tested by Allah Most High and don’t forget we all can be tested by Allah the Almighty at any time.  The Muslim Ummah is like one body and we have to respond as early as possible otherwise survival will be impossible for them. Please come forward and help your brothers and sisters by any means. Let”s all stand with the surviving families of the earthquake and tsunami and pray together:

“Rabbanaa laa tuhammilnaa ma laa taaqata lanaa bih (Our Lord, do not burden us with more than we can bear).”