Thai Buddhist monks remember 5400 tsunami victims

PHUKET - Buddhist monks gathered on the shore of Thailand's tranquil Andaman Sea yesterday for a blessing ceremony in memory of the 5400 people killed when a tsunami swept the kingdom's beaches three years ago.

PHUKET - Buddhist monks gathered on the shore of Thailand's tranquil Andaman Sea yesterday for a blessing ceremony in memory of the 5400 people killed when a tsunami swept the kingdom's beaches three years ago.

About 200 people from Thailand and abroad, many who lost loved ones in the tragedy, sat silently and grasped red roses as the orange robed monks chanted blessings to mark the anniversary of the disaster.

After the low-key ceremony, people walked out on to Phuket's Patong beach and cast flowers representing the dead into the sea.

For many the event brought back memories of December 26 2004, when the walls of water created by a massive earthquake off Indonesia killed about 220000 people in a dozen countries on the Indian Ocean.

Dolnapa Suwanho, 55, a masseuse who works on the southern resort island of Phuket, recalls being hit by the first wave, but ran for higher ground and managed to save herself.

"My co-workers failed to run fast, so they were washed out by the second wave. I lost six friends I worked with," Dolnapa said.

"I am still a bit scared and miss my friends, but now we have the tsunami tower warning system, so I don't feel so scared anymore."

Others are still trying to rebuild their lives and businesses after homes and shops were swept away in the tsunami.

Roughly half of the people killed in the December 2004 tsunami were foreign holidaymakers, and people have travelled from around the world to mark the third anniversary. - Sapa-AFP

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