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World Vision ambassador Melissa Doyle, pictured with Nadia and her son Mohammed, opens up to New Idea about her trip to Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Photo: New Idea
It’s hard to believe that it's been a decade since the earthquake off the coast of the western Indonesian island of Sumatra caused the devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which left more than 250,000 people dead or missing across 14 countries.
Banda Aceh, the capital and largest city in the province of Aceh, Indonesia, was the most severely hit city with approximately 160,000 people dead and many more injured, due to it's proximity to 9.3 magnitude earthquake that triggered the tsunami.
To mark the 10-year anniversary, World Vision ambassador Melissa Doyle travelled to Banda Aceh, to see first-hand the rebuilding efforts that continue a decade on.
During her time there, Mel visited areas that had been completely wiped out, speaking with survivors about their experiences when the tsunami hit and about rebuilding their lives in the wake of the devastation.
“We met so many people who had been very, very much affected,” recalls Mel.
“They’ve certainly recovered and come a long way but it's one of those things where at least a quarter of [the population] has lost a family member – the memories are still very much a part of their life.”
As well as the complete rebuilding of schools, homes and in some cases entire villages, one of the major initiatives in the area is the tsunami warning system, which includes a number of signs that advise people of where the evacuation and refugee points are.
Melissa with students at a school in central Banda Aceh. Photo: New Idea
“I went and saw how far they’ve come in 10 years, and we looked at how the world vision donation money has been spent,” explains Mel.
“I visited schools that had been rebuilt, and a lot of little local villages and areas where every single house had to be rebuilt because the tsunami was that massive.”
One story that struck a chord with the mother-of-two, was that of a woman called Nadia, who was nine months pregnant when the tsunami hit.
With her four children and husband, Nadia fled up a small mountain at the back of their house, however when they got to the top she realised she was going into labour.
With her husband forced to use a machete to cut the umbilical cord, Nadia gave birth to a healthy baby boy called Mohammed, who will celebrate his 10th birthday on Boxing Day.
Despite how far they have come in a decade, Mel admits the memories are still very much a part of their lives.
"No matter who we met and who we encountered in those areas, they would all talk about someone they know, someone they lost, what had happened, where they were on the day," she says.
"Their memories are still very, very fresh".
Mel’s series of special reports from Bande Aceh will air from tonight on 7 News at 6pm on Channel Seven.
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