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Are we prepared? 10 year anniversary of Indonesia's tsunami reawakens the fear of a repeat occurrence

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As we remember the 2004 Indonesian tragedy, attention is given to early warning systems.

Ten years ago, one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded spiked a massive tsunami, wiping out shorelines around the Indian Ocean. 

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Highlights

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - At least 220,000 people in 14 countries were killed by the tsunami on December 26, 2004; more than 160,000 of those were from Indonesia.

The tragedy was triggered by a 9.1-magnitude earthquake, the area's most powerful in 40 years. The Earth's axis wobbled a few centimeters.

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A lot of the regions torn apart by the event were underdeveloped and couldn't recover properly. The world joined together to help those affected by the disaster and over $13 billion was collected to aid relief and the reconstruction effort.

Survivors, families and citizens joined together today for beach-side memorials, religious services and commemoration ceremonies to remember the horrible event and share their experiences.

"We thought it was the end, that judgment day had arrived," expressed Fauziah, mother of five, in an article for Globalpost. Fauziah and her children all survived. A boat, displaced by the tsunami and stuck on the roof of her shop, offered a safe place to wait and watch their city being destroyed.

"The sea was everywhere, no building standing. The waves hitting houses sounded like bombs being dropped."

"My parents held my two sisters, they were all holding onto each other but my mum kept on screaming at me 'run son, run.' I started running. I saw them being taken by a wave. I was crying but I continued," explained Muhammad, a 25-year-old student. Muhammad was caught by two separated waves the size of a three-story building. His parents and two sisters were never found.

"This commemoration ceremony is not only to pray for the victims and thank the people around the world, but it is a time when we learn how to resolve the problem, as the lesson [from the tsunami] taught us, how to resolve a complicated problem by uniting as one," Vice President Jusuf Kalla explained in an Voice of America article.

The 2004 event acted as a wake up call for the world. There needed to be an early warning system.

A $400 million early warning system is now set up across 28 countries. However, parts of it don't work.

In 2012, an 8.6-magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia's Banda Aceh, the same place as the 2004 earthquake. The warning sirens failed. Panick erupted among the people; instead of using the all purpose-built shelters, they clogged the roads trying to flee.

According to Shamika Sirimanne, who focuses on disaster risk reduction at the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific, "governments need to spend more to avoid a repeat of the 2004 disaster."

We don't have the power to stop earthquakes or tsunamis, but we do have the ability to provide early warnings, allowing people a better chance of survival.

If the needs are not met and warning systems do not properly work, we cannot provide early warnings and the chances of another disastrous tragedy like the one in 2004 remains likely.

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