The Tsunami, One Year Later It's been a year since the world woke up to news about the tsunami in Southeast Asia, one of the most devastating disasters in history. Erich Krauss, author of Wave of Destruction: The Stories of Four Families and History's Deadliest Tsunami, discusses personal stories about people whose lives were swept away, and how they have moved on.
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The Tsunami, One Year Later

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The Tsunami, One Year Later

The Tsunami, One Year Later

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Andrea Seabrook in Washington. Neal Conan is away.

More than 200,000 people were killed by the South Asian tsunami. That's a big number, but it does nothing to describe the millions of ordinary lives that were forever made extraordinary by the wave. Now a year later, the hard work goes on as people rebuild their homes, try to repair their families and search for a kind of peace after devastating losses. Today we'll reflect on the personal stories of survival and reconstruction in Southeast Asia following one of the world's largest natural disasters.

If you are a survivor of the tsunami, witnessed its immediate aftermath or have since traveled to the region, give us a call. Our number here is (800) 989-8255. That's (800) 989-TALK. Our e-mail address is

Later in the program, our TALK OF THE NATION opinion page feature continues with a look at the Saddam Hussein trial. Is it a farce or is it working?

But first we're joined now by Erich Krauss, author of "Wave of Destruction: The Stories of Four Families and History's Deadliest Tsunami." He comes to us from member station KVPR in Fresno, California.

Hello there, Mr. Krauss.

Mr. ERICH KRAUSS (Author; "Wave of Destruction: The Stories of Four Families and History's Deadliest Tsunami"): Hello. Hello.

SEABROOK: I want to just jump right into one of the stories in your book, the story of Wemon Fontay(ph). Am I pronouncing that right?

Mr. KRAUSS: Yes, you are.

SEABROOK: He seemed like an extraordinary man to start out with, but let's go to the day of the hurricane, a year ago--excuse me, of the tsunami. A year ago today he is in a long-tail fishing boat out at sea. Describe what happened.

Mr. KRAUSS: Well, he went out with his brother that morning as he does every morning and he went about 10 miles away from the village of Nam Khem, which is the village I focus on in "Wave of Destruction," and, you know, it started out as a normal morning. He drops his nets and then he sits down for some lunch and all of a sudden he gets tossed down to the bottom of his boat. And that was the first wave, which was actually one of the smallest of the waves. There was actually four waves that came through.

So when he gathered himself up, he looked back and he saw, you know, the second wave. And then he looked back to shore and saw the first one as it got closer and closer to shore slowly start wiping out the 23 other boats, long-tail boats, right in the area. So...

SEABROOK: And you describe in your book that there are other fishermen, maybe a dozen or 20 fishermen...

Mr. KRAUSS: Correct.

SEABROOK: ...that are also out at the same time and that some others make the decision to go toward the tsunami, towards the big wave rather than away from it and they go straight at it. They put their noses straight into the wave and it doesn't work.

Mr. KRAUSS: Correct. They had two options. Obviously, in that position, either go to shore, which is probably your first instinct, or go into the wave. And since they're experienced fishermen, they kind of realize that the waves are going to get bigger the closer they get to shore. So a lot of them went headlong into the wave, and, as they went up, Wemon saw this, they just either cracked right in half as they hit the top or they just tumbled back onto itself and, of course, you could see the bits of the boat and the bodies trapped behind the wave. And he was faced with this. `What do I do? Do I'--you know, and he decided just not to go fast into the wave, just to slow down. And in the process of doing that, his boat actually turned sideways. And that's what saved him. He went over it sideways. And you wouldn't think with a skinny boat like that he'd be able to go over the wave, but he did.

SEABROOK: How did you meet Wemon?

Mr. KRAUSS: I was actually--when I first got to Nam Khem, all the relief workers were in the tourist zones and I could tell that they were pretty well taken care of. I got there 12 days after the tsunami. And I found Nam Khem because there was no one else there, no relief workers. They had no aid. And so I went and started just talking to people, `Who needs help here?' And everyone pointed me towards Wemon who lost eight members of his family. He was dealing with obviously issues of suicide because he didn't know how to take all this.

But he didn't want my help. What he wanted was me to help everyone else. And so that kind of drew me close to him right off the bat. He wasn't asking for anything. He was giving, constantly giving, trying to get help for Dang, which was being ousted from her land by a corporation trying to steal it for--create a hotel.

So that's how I met him and I just kind of followed him for about 11 months--actually, about 10 months for the book, but I'm still with him.

SEABROOK: And you--he told you this story of sort of heading toward the wave and this sort of...

Mr. KRAUSS: Right.

SEABROOK: You know what it drew--it drove home for me the idea that it was these split-second decisions that people made that meant the difference between life and death in some cases. In others, there was no hope. But in his case, he made a split-second--I mean, he must have had only seconds to decide to turn the boat to the side and that's what saved his life.

Mr. KRAUSS: Yeah. The waves were actually spread out about five minutes apart so...

SEABROOK: So he had minutes.

Mr. KRAUSS: ...he had minutes, definitely. And that almost can be worst because in that situation you might think, `OK. I'll head toward shore. I have five minutes.' But every boat that did obviously didn't make it and the people that were on the boat didn't survive. But...

SEABROOK: He later makes it onto shore and hears the story of his wife.

Mr. KRAUSS: Yes. You know, he saved two people from--drowning people from the water before he finally made it back to Nam Khem, and, when he gets there, he realizes that his wife and two daughters got hit by the wave. And his wife was--managed to save his elder daughter, she was--her neck was wrapped around a clothes line and so she's basically hanging there, and she saved her life, but then they couldn't find their three-year-old daughter, which was pretty traumatic for Wemon.

SEABROOK: And he's just one of hundreds of thousands of people.

Mr. KRAUSS: Yeah, exactly. Just in Nam Khem--he lost eight members of his family that day and then just in Nam Khem they lost--the official number is about 5,000 but they lost a lot more than that because there was laborers from both Burma and Thailand that weren't registered in the village.

SEABROOK: You also give the impression that--of the people, though, he's one of the lucky ones. I mean, he lost eight members of his family, including a daughter, and he's one of the lucky ones.

Mr. KRAUSS: Yeah. You know, right now I'm working with a lot of the elderly people which lost their entire families and, you know, in Thailand they rely upon--when they get old, rely upon their family to support them. And they don't have anyone to do that, so a lot of them are in the temporary housing camps. They have enough rice but no meat, no vegetables and they don't feel like they're active members of society. So a lot of them are just waiting to die. And so I'm working with trying to get them obviously first food on a monthly basis and then create some programs for them so that they can get out there and they feel like they're part of the community again. Normally their community would step in and do that, but they're so busy just trying to rebuild their own lives. So it's kind of a tough situation there now.

SEABROOK: What happened next to Wemon? After he came to shore, he spends a couple of days near the hospital with his family that he's managed to gather together.

Mr. KRAUSS: Yeah.

SEABROOK: What's the next step after the immediate disaster?

Mr. KRAUSS: His is an amazing story because he knew that his three-year-old daughter was in these--Nam Khem's a tin mining town--it started--and they had these big tin mines that filled with water over the years. And so he knew that she was at the bottom of that pond, along with hundreds of other people, that she became...

SEABROOK: A tin mining run-off pond.

Mr. KRAUSS: Correct.


Mr. KRAUSS: And so he was obsessed with draining this pond, but there was no relief workers, there was no help in the immediate area. The leader of the village left. The government wasn't acknowledging Nam Khem. So basically he's the one that essentially saved this village. He went down in Khao Lak, which is the tourist area, Mr. Sor Yuth(ph), he's the most famous reporter in Thailand, and no one knew--everyone thought maybe 200, 300 people died in Nam Khem. Wemon got in there, got an interview with Mr. Sor Yuth and told him, `Hey, 5,000 people died here.' And Mr. Sor Yuth didn't believe it. So he came to Nam Khem and he saw the devastation. So he drew all this attention from the world towards Nam Khem.

And then as a reward, because Wemon, you know, was selfless, he tried to help his community, Mr. Sor Yuth said, `Hey, what can I do for you personally? I'll buy you a house. I'll buy you a new long-tail boat.' And Wemon said, `I want 70 psychologists to come to Nam Khem and help us because I'm thinking of suicide and I know everyone else here is as well.' So that was his actions on that day and in the weeks to come. Even though he lost so much he was still caring about his community. And I think that really summed up the Thai people. They're very generous, very kind and they help--they came to each other's rescue really well after the disaster.

SEABROOK: And then what? I mean, what do people do when they get out of that disaster phase--Are they still in the disaster phase? I mean, at what point do they start to rebuild their houses? What's happened in Nam Khem this year?

Mr. KRAUSS: OK. This is--you know, obviously, the--when I first got there, 12 days after the tsunami, I didn't think this village was ever going to survive. It was just rubble on top of rubble. There was nothing left. But in the last 12 months, the government has come in and they've built hundreds of homes, and the problem is getting people to move in to those homes. A lot of people are really scared to come back, obviously, because they fear another wave. Every month, at least two to three rumors, mass rumors, circulate about another earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, another massive wave spotted offshore and everyone goes running to their highlands. And in their absence, looters and robbers comes down into Nam Khem and steal and break into homes and things of that nature.

A lot of people are afraid to come home for fear of losing the donations they're getting in the camps. Because there's a lot of corruption going on, not in the camps but in the village. The village--certain politicians are receiving money for donations, but instead of distributing that to the people who really need it, they're distributing it to friends and family members. And that includes houses. People have gotten houses that never lived in Nam Khem, and then there's old people, and people who have lived in Nam Khem their entire lives, still at the temporary housing camps, unable to find shelter. So corruption's a big problem all the way down to the end of the line.

SEABROOK: It sounds like what you're describing of these rumors of waves coming and the looters and so on, it's almost as if there are groups of people preying on these people, psychologically. Did...

Mr. KRAUSS: Oh, for sure.

SEABROOK: Did Wemon's request of 70 psychologists come through? What happened there?

Mr. KRAUSS: Yes, they did. Mr. Sor Yuth sent them into the village and they met with numerous people. Another woman that I follow in the book is Dang and, you know, obviously, a company kicked her off her land after the tsunami, trying to steal her land and her community's land to build a resort, and the psychiatrist met with her. Obviously, she was in a state where she--it couldn't really benefit her because she still hadn't found her daughter--six-year-old daughter--or her father. And this company was having bodyguards blocking her from getting back onto her land. So they did go and meet with people, but I think it's not just a short-term thing. I think it's a long-term thing. I think we need to keep, you know, the help going and that's in all aspects--food, you know, mental health, as well.

SEABROOK: So how much of Nam Khem has been rebuilt, if you can call it that?

Mr. KRAUSS: Well, obviously, there's still rubble all over the place, but they...

SEABROOK: Are they still finding bodies? I mean, how--what does that...

Mr. KRAUSS: Yeah. They're still--I just talked to the head police officer out there. They're still finding skeletons out in the jungle. So, you know, obviously, with that--there's a--surrounding Nam Khem to the south, there's the long strip of hotels, and to the north is--they're pretty much the end of the line. It's just jungle. So a lot of the bodies got carried up and deep into the jungle. So whether they'll find them, you know, in the year or two that's--it's just--it's going to be a slow process gathering all the people in, 'cause they were spread out over such a large distance. In Nam Khem, the wave traveled more than a kilometer inland. So...

SEABROOK: We're speaking to Erich Krauss, the author of "Wave of Destruction: The Stories of Four Families and History's Deadliest Tsunami." After the break, we'll talk to a director for the International Rescue Committee. He'll join us in this conversation.

I'm Andrea Seabrook. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

SEABROOK: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Andrea Seabrook in Washington.

Today, the world is remembering the victims of last year's tsunami in Southeast Asia--the lives lost and the lives left behind to rebuild. If you have a story to tell about the devastating impact of this natural disaster, give us a call. Our number is 1 (800) 989-TALK. The e-mail is

And we want to get to the phones here. Let's see, let's talk to Sam in San Diego. Hi, you're on TALK OF THE NATION.

SAM (Caller): Hi, Andrea. How are you doing today?

SEABROOK: Pretty good.

SAM: We--I hope I'm not losing you right now.

SEABROOK: Nope. You sound good. Go ahead.

SAM: OK. Great. Yeah, I just--I wanted to, I guess, to relate to the people's side of the story. I was in the Navy at the time and we had actually missed the tsunami by a few hours leaving Singapore; we were on our way to Thailand. The tsunami happened right after we had left and, of course, we were redirected off the shore of Indonesia. They ended up using our helicopters to help the survivors and I guess help move food and various things like that.

The main thing I wanted to relate was about the crew of the ship. They had actually--before we got there, were asking for volunteers to go and help with the various, you know, I suppose moving bodies and moving supplies and things like that.


SAM: And I was just really surprised at the high number of volunteers that actually did volunteer because they did bring up the fact that, you know, they may be exposed to disease and, you know, just various things that they may--you know, may be quite repulsive. So good percentage, 80 to 90 percent, volunteered and wanted to go. But, unfortunately, they didn't use the crew, but they did use the helicopters and we were there for a week or two off the shore of Indonesia to help them out.

SEABROOK: Thanks, Sam.

Let me--let's go back to Erich Krauss, author of "Wave of Destruction: The Stories of Four Families and History's Deadliest Tsunami."

Erich Krauss, did you--Sam, the caller we were just talking to said that there were lots of volunteers right in the days following. Has that kept up through the year?

Mr. KRAUSS: It has, actually, yes. It took a dip about three months out, but now I've just received word that there's a whole new batch of workers going to Nam Khem. You know, obviously, I don't know about in Indonesia or whatnot, but I can speaking in Thailand. There is still quite a big effort to get help to people. And now it's the good kind of help, it's organized help. In the beginning it was very unorganized help and a lot of it was counteractive and it was hard to screen certain people. So there was corruption going on in the very beginning. But now I think it's getting more streamlined.

SEABROOK: Well, to help us pick this apart, let's talk with Michael Kocher. He's the Indonesia regional director for the International Rescue Committee. He arrived in the Aceh region just days after the tsunami hit and has been stationed there ever since. He joins us now by phone from Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

Hello, Mr. Kocher.

Mr. MICHAEL KOCHER (International Rescue Committee): Hello.

SEABROOK: Have you been able to hear our conversation up to this point? I'm interested to hear what you think about the numbers of volunteers and as Erich Krauss was saying that they've gotten better at their job over time.

Mr. KOCHER: Well, I think that's right. I think that goes to the whole of the humanitarian response, not just volunteers, but the agencies that are engaged. You know, given the scale of the disaster here in Indonesia, you know, 175,000 people killed, 500,000 displaced, a coastal area roughly from San Diego stretching to San Francisco, in mileage 500 miles, obliterated, it was chaos, and a destruction the likes of which I think modern science had just not seen.

You had a number of agencies and individuals streaming in with the best of intentions. Coordination was not at its finest in the early days, but a lot of good work was done, I think certainly here in Indonesia. We didn't see an outbreak of disease; there was not water-borne disease. So I think on balance the emergency response in Indonesia went fairly well.

SEABROOK: Are you familiar with Nam Khem in Thailand?

Mr. KOCHER: Only on the map. I have not been there. No, my involvement and my agency's involvement, International Rescue Committee, has been in Aceh in the number of field sites throughout the province.

SEABROOK: You know, what makes it interesting, the Nam Khem example, is that it was a small town, a small village that was away enough from the commercial regions, the resorts and so on, to be sort of missed by the very first response to the tsunami. You know, Michael Kocher, what do you--how did rescue organizations respond when they started to realize that it was much--a much bigger event than they'd thought?

Mr. KOCHER: Well, I think that's a good question. To begin, there really are no tourists or commercial regions in Aceh. It's a fairly--off the tourist map. There is a capital city of some size, Banda Aceh, but many places were very difficult to reach. We were advantaged by having had a presence in Aceh for four years previously, working in the conflict-related issues. But we were able to get five emergency response teams on the ground quickly and we understood that there were a lot of underserved more rural areas along the western coast, especially, that needed reaching and we were able to get there, as were other agencies, with specialists and health, water, sanitation, children's services.


Mr. KOCHER: But it presented great logistical challenges.

SEABROOK: And how far has the progress come in a year?

Mr. KOCHER: Well, I think it's gone reasonably well. And I think in terms of water, health services, education, the sort of emergency needs have been met and carried on. I think that the slower pace of housing and shelter as well as economic recovery, things that by definition take longer, these are remaining things that need remedy and they're going to take some time.

SEABROOK: Do you have--have you had any contact with specific families? I mean, do you follow any families there and...

Mr. KOCHER: Yeah, surely. Yeah, absolutely. My staff and I follow a number of families and a number of communities and, you know, there are countless stories and anecdotes of people that, you know, just suffered unimaginable loss. Some of our staff here, as well. We have 300 Acehenese staff working for the International Rescue Committee, most of whom experienced direct loss of family members, homes. And then in many of the villages where we're working--but there are a lot of heartening, encouraging things going on.

SEABROOK: Like what?

Mr. KOCHER: Well, you know, just the other day I was in a place, you know, talking to a fellow who was out to sea the morning of the tsunami. He was on his boat--a fishing boat. He was washed a mile inland. His boat was destroyed but he miraculously lived. You know, we helped him build his boat, equip a new boat and now he's back at sea fishing. You know, other example, in a small place called Tenom, about 30 miles south of Banda Aceh, along the western coast, I met recently with a group of about 15 women. They were tailor seamstresses prior to the tsunami. Their homes were destroyed. They had one rusty sewing machine left among them. Through a cash grant program they've been able to buy 15 new sewing machines. They're now working again, making good money, adding people to their cooperative. A lot of examples of things that are going well.

SEABROOK: Michael Kocher, Erich Krauss, hang on while we go back to the phones. If you'd like to call in: (800) 989-8255. That's (800) 989-TALK. We're talking to people, asking people to call in who have some direct experience with the tsunami in the region.

And let's go now to Evan in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Hi. You're on TALK OF THE NATION.

EVAN (Caller): Hi.

SEABROOK: Go ahead.

EVAN: Yeah. I'm someone originally from Sri Lanka but I live in Minneapolis. I've been going there, taking people from Minnesota. We've been there, like, now five times and we build a whole village in Sri Lanka, down south, a place called Morator(ph). We went there and selected a village that was devastated; we have built 54 homes. We have built playground. We have built a community center for children to educate, 2,100 square feet. We built a shower stall for the women to take showers. We also provided health care. When we first went in February, we took 3,500 volunteers. We give medical care for like over 4,000 tsunami victims and then we also built a playground for the children. So we've done a lot of work. I've taken over 113 Minnesotans and been there five times. I'm hoping to take another group in January and we got nine more homes to build, so we're done, then.

SEABROOK: Evan, have you noticed that it's gotten any better over the year or are you still...

EVAN: No. No. In Sri Lanka, there's a lot of political infighting. Hardly anything's done. People are still in camps. Only exception is my village. Otherwise we go down south, we see people still in camps. They're all rubbles. The homes are all devastated. Nothing's done, hardly anything. We see some Red Cross tents; they're still in tents, and that's about it. Nothing's done. But we had election in Sri Lanka last month. Hopefully, the new president, maybe--he promised that he'll do some work. But as far as Sri Lanka, hardly any work is done.

SEABROOK: Thank you very much, Evan.

Michael Kocher, has the political situation in these countries meant for a sort of patchy rebuilding effort across the region?

Mr. KOCHER: I understand the situation in Sri Lanka has not been smooth politically. I think in contrast, though, Aceh has gone well. As you know, there has been a peace process ongoing; an agreement was reached in August this year in Helsinki between the government of Indonesia and GAM, the Free Aceh Movement. And I think now you're seeing a lot of progress in a 30-year civil war that saw 15,000 people dead. The army here is withdrawing troops. the GAM movement is disarming. You see the reintegration of former combatants, prisoner release and amnesty. And I think what's happening here in Aceh is that people are trading bullets for voting ballots.

SEABROOK: Erich Krauss, in Thailand, have you seen--do you think the people understand the political situation? Or are they more concerned with their most immediate needs now a year after?

Mr. KRAUSS: No. I think they're definitely starting to understand the political situation just because they hear these rumors that lots of money's donated to the people and that money never shows up. There's been a lot of corruption down on the lower level. I've dealt with it directly. You know, leaders of certain villages not getting funds and donations to the actual people. Obviously, there's certain organizations that come in and give directly to the people and I think that's the best route now. You know, obviously some of the donations is making it through, but a lot of it isn't. And that's going to be a major problem in the future, as well.

SEABROOK: Have you seen a difference in the way young people have come out of this, as opposed to senior citizens?

Mr. KRAUSS: You know, I think young people tend to bounce back a little bit more. The senior citizens, they lost their entire family. You know, in Nam Khem, I can only speak there, a lot of the senior citizens survived 'cause they went to the temple, which is on higher ground, that morning while their entire family went to work. So they're the only ones left. And it's hard to kind of give them a reason to go on. With the younger children, there's a lot of, you know, programs for them. The camps--there's people that come in; foreigners donate time to spend time with them. So I think right now there's--you know, there's a big effort to help the young, but I think we need to redirect a little bit of that to the old, as well.

SEABROOK: OK. Leah in Cleveland, Ohio, how are you?

LEAH (Caller): Good afternoon.


LEAH: Hi. I just returned the day before Thanksgiving from the southern two states in India, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where I had a chance to be in villages that were directly affected. And I think the things that your guests are reporting from the locations that they're in are the same kinds of things I saw in India with folks still in camps, with a lot of disputes over who owned what land and how to rebuild homes. If people could prove they owned the foundation on which their homes were built, then they were allowed to rebuild. But most folks did not have any proof of ownership and no foundations were left. So their land is in dispute. And ownership is really a problem in terms of the government stepping in and helping them out. There's a great deal of land gouging and people stepping up and saying they had owned the property. And the prices have skyrocketed.

So the people who originally lived on the land, whether they owned it or were squatters, really don't have access to rebuild, although they do have boats. We saw Salvation Army boats. The non-profit I worked with had purchased boats and the fishermen were out to sea in the afternoons when I was in the villages and the boats that they've received, at least where I am familiar with, had much stronger engines than their previous boats, so they're able to go much further out to sea where fishing grounds are better. Closer to land, the fishing grounds have been spoiled by the debris that was swept out in the tsunami. So...

SEABROOK: Thank you very much, Leah.

We're talking about the Asian tsunami and you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Erich Krauss, I understand you've seen some of the same political situation in Nam Khem as our caller was just talking about.

Mr. KRAUSS: Yeah. That's correct. A lot of it has to do with like who owned homes and there's always issues rising. You have to show proof that you owned your home, you got to show your deed. But a lot of deeds were washed away. And so what's happening is the government's building hundreds upon hundreds of homes. But who gets these homes? A lot of it is friends and family members of political people in the area.

I know people who lived in Nam Khem their entire lives and they still haven't got a home while other families have three or four homes. So a lot of the homes are vacant. And a lot of the people who do get homes don't want to move in to them for fear of another wave or for whatever reason, so they're just sitting vacant.

SEABROOK: And, Michael Kocher, has your organization tried to help with this situation?

Mr. KOCHER: Yeah. These issues that we've heard described just now ring true here as well. We are not building homes directly, but we are doing a lot of water sanitation work for newly constructed homes and temporary shelters as well. I think that in Aceh, the complications are that much of the land was washed away quite literally. A lot of the land needs to be reclaimed and cleared, and the other guests have noted issues of land ownership, legal titles. I think, too, another factor is that many people in Aceh were renting their homes. Up to 40 percent were renters and did not own their land. And then on top of that, you have issues of road access, building standards, urban planning, electricity, and then the inevitable bureaucracy and coordination issues.

SEABROOK: And, Erich Krauss, give me a one last look-back now a year later. Where do you see Nam Khem and are you going back?

Mr. KRAUSS: Yeah. I'm going to be going back in a couple of months. I'm trying to coordinate, you know, getting funds raised for the elderly people in Nam Khem and also build some--hopefully get them into homes in the near future. I'm also going to go back and check on the four families that I followed in "Wave of Destruction" and make sure they're doing OK. So I'll probably be going back in, you know, about a month or a month and a half.

SEABROOK: And so your big picture, you know, a couple sentences on how it looks now a year later.

Mr. KRAUSS: You know, I think it's extremely optimistic. I never thought it was going to come this far. I thought that, you know, everyone was going to move away from the village, that there would just be no village there in the future and that the long line of hotels is eventually going to overtake it. Now I feel differently. I feel that there's a lot of hope in the village, and there's a lot of fear as well, and so hopefully, that that hope can overcome the fear, that they can go back to what they were doing and not be, you know, overtaken by the long chain of hotels; that they'll still be fishermen, merchants, and that they'll continue with their lives and move past the fear.

SEABROOK: And, Michael Kocher, your biggest task in the coming months and up to the two-year anniversary.

Mr. KOCHER: Well, I think it's just simply to keep going. There are numerous challenges ahead. I think we have to make sure that economic recovery picks up pace and stays on track. I think that Erich is right. You know, the damage here was quite literally apocalyptic; the panorama of it almost impossible to describe. But a great deal has been accomplished, and yet, a great deal is left to do. I'd like to underscore that part of the reason that there's a fair amount of success here in Aceh is just simply the strength, determination, resourcefulness of the people. It gives you a sense of humility and privilege to work here.

SEABROOK: Michael Kocher is the Indonesia regional director for the International Rescue Committee. He spoke to us by phone from Banda Aceh, Indonesia. And Erich Krauss is the author of "Wave of Destruction: The Stories of Four Families and the History's Deadliest Tsunami." Thank you both for joining us.

Mr. KRAUSS: Thank you.

Mr. KOCHER: Thank you.

SEABROOK: When we come back from a short break, it's the TALK OF THE NATION Opinion Page. This week, a favorable review of the trial of Saddam Hussein.

I'm Andrea Seabrook. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


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