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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 December 2007, 16:55 GMT
Tsunami remembered three years on
A Sri Lankan boy joins a tsunami commemoration ceremony at a temple in Colombo on 26 December 2007
Commemorative ceremonies have been held across the world

Ceremonies have been held around the world marking the third anniversary of one of the worst natural catastrophes of modern times, the Asian Tsunami.

Nearly a quarter of a million people in 13 countries died in the 26 December 2004 disaster, which was triggered by a massive undersea earthquake.

Up to 170,000 people perished in Indonesia alone.

Hundreds of people attended an open-air prayer ceremony near Calang town in Indonesia's badly-hit Aceh province.

Smaller ceremonies were held at mass graves and mosques across Aceh, which was closest to the quake epicentre, and where more than two-thirds of the deaths occurred.

Emergency drill

In Banten province, a coastal area in Indonesia's main island of Java, a drill simulating a tsunami strike was held involving some 9,000 residents.

Authorities also tested the response of emergency relief teams to a mock chemical leak in a factory in the event of a major earthquake striking the area.

A woman weeps as she remembers the tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia, on Wednesday 26 December 2007

"A tsunami drill in Banten is important as we have industrial complexes and there are chemical factories here... A tsunami could bring big disaster for people here," a local official told AFP news agency.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other government officials attended the exercise.

In Sri Lanka services were held for the more than 30,000 people who were killed on the island.

President Mahinda Rajapakse led a two-minute silence at a special ceremony and re-opened a six-lane bridge, the widest in the country, in the southern coastal town of Matara.

It was damaged during the tsunami and rebuilt with money donated by South Korea.

In India, where more than 16,000 people died, thousands of fishing families who survived the deadly waves gathered on beaches to remember the dead.

Buddhist monks chant next to the unclaimed ashes of the tsunami victims at Patong beach in southern Thailand, 26 December 2007
Buddhist monks chanted blessings and led a prayer service

Thailand also held ceremonies throughout the day along the stretch of coastline around the resort town of Khao Lak in the south.

Thousands of candles flickered in the night by the country's Andaman Sea in memory of the 5,400 people who lost their lives there in the tsunami, two in five of them foreign tourists.

Survivors and families of victims gathered on Patong beach in Phuket to cast flowers into the sea and release lantern balloons into the sky. Buddhist monks chanted blessings and led a prayer service.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it had spent more than $1.5bn (0.75bn) helping four million people rebuild their homes.

It said it hoped to complete much of the remaining work in the next two years but warned real recovery would remain a long-term aim because of the huge scale of relief work.

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