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ASIA / PACIFIC
Page 4 n THE ASIAN REPORTER
January 5, 2015
10 years on, where did all the tsunami debris go?
DRAMATIC DIFFERENCE. Acehnese children
play near a house on which a fishing boat landed after
it was swept away by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami
in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Ten years after the gigantic
wave swept into the city of 4 million on the day after
Christmas, Banda Aceh has been almost totally re-
stored. The tangled mountains of rubbish are gone,
and it’s hard to imagine the destruction that once
choked rivers, blocked streets, and ripped up trees
by the roots. The house and the boat on it are now
preserved as a monument. (AP Photo/Heri Juanda)
By Fakhrurradzie Gade
and Niniek Karmini
The Associated Press
ANDA ACEH, Indonesia — Cars.
Fishing boats. Houses. Entire
villages. The 2004 tsunami left
Banda Aceh with mountains of debris up to
four miles inland.
Driving in the remade communities
today, it’s easy to wonder where it all went.
Some of it is still there — recycled into road
materials, buildings, and furniture. Some
of it was burned, creating new environ-
mental hazards. And most of it was simply
washed out to sea.
Ten years after that gigantic wave
engulfed the city of 4 million on the day
after Christmas, Banda Aceh has been
almost totally restored. The tangled
mountains of rubbish are gone, and it’s
hard to imagine the destruction that once
choked rivers, blocked streets, and ripped
up trees by the roots.
The endless heaps of twisted metal,
splintered wood, and broken concrete have
all disappeared except for some scattered
reminders for tourists and local residents.
A drive along the coast highlights a
stunning coastline with new houses
perched near the beach. Lush mangroves
have been planted to help withstand
future tsunamis, fishermen are back at
sea, and farmers are again working their
Still, authorities are concerned about
the health and environmental risks posed
by debris contaminated by oil, asbestos,
and medical waste sitting on the seafloor
off the coast and in 32 unregulated dump
sites around the city.
“Unsafe disposal of waste will cause
further environmental damage in the long
term,” said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, who
headed the Aceh and Nias Reconstruction
and Rehabilitation Agency, which led the
massive clean-up effort and was dissolved
in 2009 after the job was judged finished.
Banda Aceh, located on the northern tip
of Indonesia’s Sumatra island, was the city
hardest hit by the disaster, which
devastated hundreds of communities in
more than a dozen countries around the
The tsunami left an estimated 13 million
cubic yards of debris, most of it washed
into the ocean, Mangkusubroto said. If all
two-and-a-half-acre field, it would create a
tower of trash 3,000 feet tall.
Cleaning up the wrecked city was a
mammoth, often overwhelming, task.
For weeks, the streets were strewn with
rubble, and rescue workers retrieved dead
bodies from under houses and in ponds,
said Abdul Mutalib Ahmad, who worked at
Banda Aceh’s only landfill and witnessed
the tsunami from atop a three-story
“Debris was everywhere,” he said. “We
thought we were facing [a] severe public
health problem with the massive amount
At first, many survivors simply burned
wood and other garbage. But authorities
discouraged them from doing that because
it polluted the air and could expose them to
harmful toxins that might lead to
respiratory problems. Some trash was
covered with oil or chemicals, making it
extremely flammable and hazardous, and
in at least one case, a fire spread
uncontrollably over a large area.
As key roads were cleared, trucks began
carting tons of debris to the landfill every
day for at least a year, Ahmad said.
But some waste inevitably got dumped
at random sites around the city. They still
contain leaky oil drums and asbestos-laced
Hazardous waste that was found among
the rubble was buried in a separate
marked area inside the city’s landfill,
according to Tomi Soetjipto, the
Indonesian spokesman for the U.N.
Development Program (UNDP), which
oversaw much of the clean-up effort. And
nearly 50 tons of expired medications —
some of it donated after the tsunami — sit
in a warehouse awaiting safe disposal.
Three months after the tsunami, the
UNDP started a $40.5 million recycling
temporary workers to pluck wood and
stone from the rubble and use the
materials to rebuild roads and houses as
well as to make furniture. The recycled
waste was used to reconstruct 62 miles of
roads and manufacture 12,000 pieces of
wooden furniture, Mangkusubroto said.
The UNDP’s Tsunami Recovery Waste
Management Project cleared about 1.3
million cubic yards of debris from the city,
enough to fill 400 Olympic swimming
pools. It also trained about 1,300 govern-
ment workers in overseeing the program.
Some 67,000 metric tons of other
recyclable materials such as glass, plastic,
and cardboard were diverted from landfills
and sold in local markets.
Indonesian authorities say the clean-up
was possible only with the help of the
“Finally, the mounting tsunami rubbish
was cleared. For such a huge job like that,
the world didn’t leave us alone to face it,”
Karmini reported from Jakarta.
Associated Press writer Margie Mason
contributed to this report from Banda Aceh.
Merriam-Webster names ‘culture’ word of the year
Continued from page 16
In-Town moves from
w AUTO TRANSPORTS
RESERVE one now
First United Engineering
Google Works, which includes a descrip-
tion of a software fix by a few engineers
that made ads more relevant on the search
“It wasn’t Google’s culture that turned
those five engineers into problem-solving
ninjas who changed the course of the
company over the weekend,” wrote the
authors, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt
and former head of product development
“Rather it was the culture that attracted
the ninjas to the company in the first
Before the word culture exploded,
Sokolowski said, “we used to talk about
‘society’ a lot. Certain groups are taking
‘society’ out of their names now. It seems to
be receding. Part of that seems to be
because it’s elitist. We’re using the word
culture more frequently in that place.”
Not all lookup spikes are quite that
complex. The reason je ne sais quoi landed
at No. 6, for instance, is “dead simple,” he
The fast-food drive-in chain Sonic,
known for television spots featuring two
goofy dudes eating in a car, had them
munching on boneless chicken wings in
“I’ve finally found myself a wingman,”
goofy guy No. 1 says of the wings he hopes
will make him a chick magnet.
“Oh right,” sneers goofy guy No. 2,
“gonna give you that certain je ne sais
WINNING WORD. The word “culture” is seen in
the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary in New
York. Merriam-Webster has named “culture” as its
2014 word of the year. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Responds No. 1: “Jenna said what?”
They mine the word play a couple more
times, but you get the picture.
“Since September, when this ad came
out, this word has been close to the Top 10
or in the Top 10 of our lookups almost
every single day,” Sokolowski said.
Fast-food aside, he called this year’s list
a relatively sober one.
Insidious, for example, received a bump
early in the year when a new trailer was
released for Insidious: Chapter 3, a
prequel in the horror film franchise
Insidious, out in June. The word surfaced
in a big way again, on October 8, when a
Texas hospital released a statement on the
death of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first
confirmed Ebola patient in the United
The statement spoke of his courageous
battle and the hospital’s profound sadness
when he “succumbed to an insidious
Rounding out the Top 10 are innovation,
surreptitious, autonomy, and morbidity.
“This is a fairly sober list. It was a fairly
sober year,” he concluded.