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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 January, 2005, 15:06 GMT
Eyewitness: Loss and despair in Aceh
A teenager stands among the ruins of his home in Banda Aceh, Indonesia
The Indonesian province of Aceh was one of the areas worst affected by the Asian tsunami disaster.

Aid agencies have faced a logistical nightmare in their efforts to provide essential assistance to the region.

Antonia Paradela was on holiday near the provincial capital Banda Aceh when the tsunami hit. She sent her account of the devastation there to

I was on a ferry between the island of Pulau Weh and Banda Aceh.

I noted that the ship bounced a little but I didn't pay any attention to it.

I was on the deck and an Indonesian guy pointed to the island saying "tsunami".

When I looked I saw a wave that was going backwards, the spray was coming towards us instead of going towards the shore.

I saw some people running on the shore but didn't realise the scale of it all initially.

Cars appeared to be stuck to the walls, alongside the bodies of children and babies
In less than an hour we arrived in Banda Aceh and started to see that something out of the ordinary was happening.

The jetties were submerged and some fishermen told us about a big wave.

The ferry turned back to Pulau Weh. People were fearing another tsunami.

All the little shops I saw when I departed had disappeared, the streets were damaged, and cars were overturned.

Absolute devastation

Then came the aftershocks.

The next day I and others managed to get another ship to Banda Aceh.

The scene there was one of total and absolute devastation.

As we walked along a river we saw corpses floating.

The fishermen's houses were totally levelled. Everywhere there were more and more corpses.

Some people we met begged for food and water. They were all in shock.

I worked in Iraq after the last war and never saw anything like this
I was there in 2000 and still remember some buildings that now aren't there any more.

Banda Aceh is very low so the water went deep into the city.

We walked for an hour witnessing big fishing ships that were thrown over buildings, and more and more bodies that lined the streets.

The Chinese community area was in shambles. The cars appeared to be stuck to the walls, alongside the bodies of children and babies.

The corpses were bloated and the majority of them had their arms upwards.

Anguish and pain

The water left marks three metres high. The smell of the bodies was extremely pungent.

I started to retch and tried to hold it as I was with many locals. I worked in Iraq after the last war and never saw anything like this.

We tried to reach the Red Cross office. The police told us that 1,000 of their officers were missing and already some pillaging was taking place.

Finally we got to ride in a police truck and got to the governor's palace.

The survivors we met along the way were consumed by anguish and pain.

At the palace the contrast was striking - a city in urgency governed by people still worried about protocol.

Finally the Red Cross got a field the size of a football pitch to open a mass grave.

Whole families were waiting at the airport to leave on the first plane.

Many of the Chinese community wanted to go. An Indonesian guy told us that if the Chinese were leaving then there was no hope.

People boarded the plane just with the clothes they had on at the time of the tidal wave.

Everyone in Banda Aceh has a story of loss and despair.



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