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This morning, five years ago, what became known as the Boxing Day Tsunami rolled in, devastating sections of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Maldives and India. We were on holiday in Sri Lanka at the time and were in Colombo when the wave hit. As Sam was a wire journalist at the time, our holiday ceased immediately and we headed down to cover the aftermath. Following Sri Lanka, but before we headed to southern Thailand to cover the damage to Ko Phi Phi, Khao Lak and Phuket, I wrote an email to friends and family that encompassed some of my immediate impressions and emotions of the time. I thought, given five years have passed, others may find this edited version of the email of interest.
"Thank God for Sunday..." Those are the words of Lailawati, the vice principal of a primary school in Banda Aceh. Lailawati is a Muslim!
She was explaining to me that Sunday is the only day of the week when schools are closed. The tsunami, which struck on Boxing Day 2004, happened on a Sunday.
If the school had been open that morning, the catastrophe would have been worse. When the huge wave came ashore, it damaged buildings. But the real damage was done as the water receded. Buildings, weakened by the initial onslaught, crumbled; cars and people were washed out to sea.
The original school on this site disappeared. Lailawati is delighted with the new building, provided by UNICEF. School Muhammadiyah 1 is state of the art.
But the horrors of five years ago are never far away.