Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 25th 2014 Contents A41
Thursday, December 25, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
When the tsunami swept
through Banda Aceh in Indonesia
ten years ago, the Basyariah family
became trapped on the top floor
of a house---the water was up to
their necks and rising fast. But they
had an amazing escape when a
boat landed on the roof.
Among the red roofs of the
newly-built houses in Lampulo vil-
lage there is an extraordinary sight:
a huge fishing boat perched on top
of two houses.
The 25m-long wooden vessel has
become a popular attraction on the
tsunami tourism trail. Signs point
to Kapal di atas rumah, which means
the boat above the house---and a
plaque details how the impromptu
ark saved 59 people s lives.
One of them is local business-
woman Fauziah Basyariah. "If it had
not been for that boat we would all
have drowned because none of us
could swim," she says.
Basyariah is still brought to tears
when she remembers that terrifying
day. "Not long after the earthquake,
people started screaming that the
seawater was coming. We were con-
fused but then we saw the water
gushing in," she says.
Nobody understood what was
happening---the tsunami was unlike
anything they had ever experienced
before. "I thought it was Judgment
Day," says Basyariah.
Her husband had taken the
motorbike to go shopping, so she
grabbed her five children and started
They couldn t outrun the water
which was rising fast, so she started
to look for shelter higher up.
The earthquake had destroyed a
lot of buildings on their street, but
they found a house that was still
standing and the six of them ran
inside and up to the second floor---
but they soon realised it was not
high enough. "It was less than a
minute before the water reached
us," says Basyariah. "The first wave
was very black---we didn t know if
it was oil or water."
Soon a second, even larger, wave
came. By then the family were
trapped. "We were floating with our
heads touching the ceiling---the
water was up around our necks. I
thought we would drown," Basyariah
Then, through the window, they
saw a strange sight---a large fishing
boat bearing down on them. "People
were screaming," she says. "But then
it got wedged on top of the house
Her 14-year-old son managed to
make a small hole in the ceiling and
climbed out on to roof. He pulled
the family out, one by one, and they
all clambered on board the boat.
Others joined them.
"When I got on to the boat, I just
prayed and prayed," says Basyariah.
"We thanked God that the boat had
saved us, but even the boat wasn t
that stable because it was full of
water, so we were just clinging on."
They watched helplessly as all
around them buildings collapsed,
with people still inside. "There was
nothing we could do," says Basyari-
ah, wiping away a tear. "Although
it s ten years since the tsunami,
when I talk about it, I feel as though
it just happened yesterday. I feel so
sad---I ll never forget it."
When the waters receded,
Basyariah and her children went to
live in a village further inland called
Beurawe, but they kept returning to
Lampulo to look for loved ones who
were missing. "I didn t know where
my husband was. And my parents
too---they had run, but they were
old, and I knew they would find it
hard to escape." She never found
The widowed Basyariah suddenly
found herself having to support five
children on her own. While staying
in a temporary shelter, aid agencies
taught her new skills---how to cul-
tivate fish, how to sew and how to
That s how she came up with the
idea of selling dried tuna snacks. A
year after the tsunami, Basyariah
launched a fish business with a loan
of 500,000 rupiah ($40)---she has
now moved back to Lampulo where
she supports her family and employs
a handful of women in the village.
Outside her house, a few doors
down from the boat, women pack-
age up the dried fish which has been
fried in garlic and onion.
The snacks are called "Tsunami
dried tuna" and have a picture of
the boat on the label. "We were
saved in the boat. We would like to
remember this," she says.
There were reportedly about 15
fishing boats stranded on the roofs
of Lampulo after the tsunami, but
the others have now been moved.
Zulfikar, the owner of this boat,
agreed to leave it as a memorial,
despite the fact he had recently
repaired it and had hoped to go out
fishing on the day of the tsunami.
Today, the boat is revered as a
sort of Noah s ark, but it is also a
daily reminder of what happened.
"Everyone is trying to take advantage
of the fact that the boat is here,"
says Basyariah. "Everyone has a dif-
ferent story about how the boat
saved them. People even make sto-
As well as attracting tourists,
Banda Aceh s memorials have an
Prior to 2004, few knew what a
tsunami was, so when the seawater
withdrew before the wave came,
people ran to collect the fish left on
the sand instead of running to higher
Now school children are taken to
visit tsunami memorials and taught
what to look out for.
The tsunami killed a dispropor-
tionately high number of women
and children because they were
unable to swim.
About 45,000 more women than
men died---in some communities
entire generations of children and
old people were wiped out.
Awareness of the warning signs
saved many lives on Simeulue, an
island off the west coast of Aceh---
just seven people died there in the
tsunami compared to 167,000 on
The hilly geography of the island
helped, but the islanders also knew
what to do thanks to a local story-
telling tradition called smong.
According to a Unesco report,
smong stories told to children often
ended with a warning: "If a strong
tremor occurs, and if the sea with-
draws soon after, run to the hills,
for the sea will soon rush ashore."
---BBC World Service
The boat that landed on a roof
and saved 59 people
In this January 11, 2005 file photo, debris are scattered around a standing mosque at Banda Aceh,
the capital of Aceh Province, Indonesia. When a powerful tsunami smashed into this Indonesian city
ten years ago, the only structures left standing in many neighborhoods were mosques. For the
hundreds who found refuge within their walls, the buildings' lifesaving role has not been
forgotten---and for many, that experience strengthened their faith. AP PHOTOS
Today, the boat is revered as a sort of Noah's ark, but it is also a daily
reminder of what happened.
Indonesians dressed as Santa Claus hand out gifts to child travellers as part of Christmas
celebrations at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday.
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