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Tears in paradise as tsunami recalled in Thailand - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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KOH PHI PHI, Thailand, (Reuters) – One by one, two by two, they moved to the edge of the beach, sat down and stared silently at the sea that killed their loved ones.

Tears rolled down cheeks as memories of those killed by the tsunami on the once paradise Thai island of Phi Phi overflowed from hundreds of eyes fixed on the azure waters of the bay from where the giant waves came.

Memories, said relatives on the backpacker island where 700 people died a year ago on Monday, which will never go away.

&#34There”s never going to be closure,&#34 said Trisha Broadbridge, whose Australian Rules footballer husband Troy was killed, as gentle waves slapped at fishing boats riding at anchor off the backdrop to cult movie &#34The Beach&#34.

&#34But at least now you”ve got through all those first dates, those first anniversaries, so hopefully it should get easier.&#34

On Phi Phi, on nearby Phuket island and Khao Lak beach to the north, people from all over the world joined Thais in remembering the 5,395 people known to have been killed in Thailand by the tsunami, which left nearly 3,000 people missing.

&#34I remember all the pain of that day when I see these names,&#34 Kanchana Wuttikorn, 13, said at the destroyed, now rebuilt, village of Ban Nam Khem as she gazed at a wall on which the names of the dead are carved.

&#34One year has passed, but my memories are fresh,&#34 she said.

&#34UNITY OF HUMAN BEINGS&#34

&#34I just want to cry,&#34 Australian Joy Vogel said in Khao Lak, clutching a wedding photograph of her daughter, who was three months pregnant when the tsunami took her and nearly 2,000 other foreigners.

&#34But I feel all the tsunami people who died are with us. The essence of my daughter lives on,&#34 she said by a police patrol boat swept two kilometres (one mile) inland, which has become a memorial.

Like many other relatives of the tsunami dead, Vogel is involved in an aid programme to help Thais who suffered. &#34I want to make my daughter”s life count for something.&#34

Mourners laid flowers — white, the symbol of purity.

&#34We hope that this memorial will be a symbol of our understanding of nature, and the unity of human beings at times of natural disasters,&#34 Thai Prime Minister Thaksin wrote on a board as he laid the foundation stone of a memorial at Khao Lak.

&#34We will show our love and care and offer our prayers for the eternal peace of the spirits of those who have departed,&#34 he wrote near where Swedes waded up to their necks into the sea to launch floating wreaths after singing the ABBA hit &#34I Have A Dream&#34.

&#34It”s a day of emotion and remembrance. It”s a step in the healing process,&#34 said Frenchman Gerard Cohen, 66, who lost five close relatives at the Sofitel on Khao Lak.

&#34It was supposed to be beautiful, heaven, and it became hell,&#34 he said at a memorial at the shell of what remains of the hotel, where 129 guests of 18 nationalities, 41 of them French, were killed along with 58 staff.

On Phi Phi, it was at the foot of a huge banyan tree and at a simple shrine where people laid their flowers along with paper doves, a symbol of peace, something the mourners hoped for but found hard to imagine.

UPSET BY PHOTOGRAPHERS

&#34We just wanted to come, to come to see them,&#34 said 49-year-old Jaysar Gul, who came from Istanbul with her husband Ali to mourn their daughter Seda and her British fiance Justin.

&#34We miss them so much. We just want to be together,&#34 she said, tears streaming down her cheeks. Seda”s body has never been found.

Some foreigners were upset by a crowd of photographers preventing them laying down flowers at a large ceremony on Phuket”s Patong beach.

One tearful woman yelled at them to &#34just go away, please&#34.

&#34We don”t care about the pictures in the paper,&#34 she shouted angrily.

It was no easier for survivors such as Brandon Behle, a 23-year-old from San Diego, California who lived through the tsunami on Phi Phi.

For him, it was the sound of a helicopter carrying dignitaries from the mainland that brought back the images of the desperate evacuation of the injured and dying.

&#34It”s kind of surreal, especially hearing the chopper coming in,&#34 said Behle. &#34That”s just what it sounded like back then.&#34

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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