On 26 December 2004, a 9.1–9.3 magnitude earthquake struck in the Indian Ocean, creating the biggest tsunami the world had seen in forty years.
A wall of water fanned out across the Indian Ocean, slamming into coastal areas at 800 km per hour with little or no warning. Tragically, over 300,000 people in fourteen countries across two continents lost their lives.
The epicentre was off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia, with the northern province of Aceh one of the worst hit areas. In some places, waves reached 20 metres (around six storeys), eroding whole shorelines as they retreated. Over 600,000 people lost their livelihoods in Aceh alone, and marine ecosystems were heavily damaged affecting fishing, ecotourism and agriculture.
Already working in the region, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) staff (two of whom, Ozeal and Mira, were killed in the tsunami) were on the ground immediately and, after helping with the initial aid relief and horrific clean up, instigated plans to help families rebuild their livelihoods through sustainable small tourism-related businesses, while protecting the recovering coastal ecosystems.
Reconstruction after the devastating tsunami led to an unprecedented demand for Aceh’s natural resources, especially timber. FFI therefore created a programme to help government and civil society partners safeguard the Ulu Masen and Leuser forests, which cover a combined three million hectares and provide vital ecosystem services such as fresh water.
FFI staff captured moments from those days, weeks and months post tsunami, as the world seemed to band together in the most hideous of circumstances. In memory of everyone who lost their lives and livelihoods, a selection of those images appear below, alongside current day pictures taken by photographer Jeremy Holden, which show how far Aceh has come in the decade since the disaster.
Ally previously worked as FFI's Deputy Director of Communications. Before this she worked in media management and PR for clients including comedians Eddie Izzard and Ed Byrne. She has also worked for Melbourne International Arts Festival, conservation organisation Greening Australia and the production company Roving Enterprises.