Remembering tsunami: Too many bodies to bury

AP News
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Posted: Dec 18, 2014 12:50 AM
Remembering tsunami: Too many bodies to bury

Some 230,000 people were killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami set off by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004. A dozen countries were hit, from Indonesia to India to Africa's east coast. Scores of Associated Press journalists covered the disaster, and as the 10th anniversary approached, the AP asked nine of them to describe the images that have stuck with them the most. This is the second of their stories, which are being published daily through Dec. 25.

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Dita Alangkara, a photographer based in Jakarta, Indonesia, viewed the worst of the tsunami in the country's Aceh region:

When my plane made an approach to land, the view from the window was shocking. It was even more jaw-dropping from the ground. As far as I could see, the city was totally flattened. Almost no buildings were spared from the killer waves. Dead bodies littered the street, stuck on tall trees. Some were eaten by dogs. It was so depressing.

The image that stuck with me most was the mass grave.

Not until the following week did the crippled authority start to get organized and collect the bodies to bury them in the hastily dug grave. No matter how hard they worked, there were just too many bodies. There was only one helpless excavator that couldn't keep up with the flow. This left the bodies piled up untouched for days, maybe even weeks. It reeked of rotting flesh.

As far as I can recall, it took a month for enough help to arrive to handle the bodies properly.

Seeing hundreds of dead bodies every day just made me appreciate life more, the air that I breathe and also the sun that I always complain about because it's too hot here where I live. That assignment brought me back to the reality that I have everything I need. ... After that assignment, everything looked so precious.