On Sunday, 26th December 2004, one of the most devastating natural disasters in recorded history occurred: at 7.O am local time in Aceh, – the north-most province on the island of Sumatra, – when a huge 9.2 RS earthquake with epicenter near the island of Simeuleu, close to the shore of Aceh shook the area. This was followed by an enormous tsunami that made landfall in Aceh within only 15 minutes. By the end of the day the Indian Ocean tsunami had killed an unsuspecting 280,000 people in fourteen countries around the Indian Ocean from Indonesia, Thailand, Srilanka to the Seychelles and Madagascar, drowning coastal areas with waves up to 30 meters high.
Known as the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami, vast swathes of the west coast of Aceh that included the cities of Banda Aceh, Calang, and Meulaboh, were completely destroyed being located closest to the epicenter, giving no time foranyone to escape. It is estimated that in Aceh more than 170,000 people were killed by the tsunami and about 500,000 were made homeless.
As a monument and symbolic reminder of this incredible calamity, on February 2008 the Aceh Tsunami Museum was officially opened, which serves as an educational center as well as an emergency tsunami disaster sheler, should the area be hit again.
The Aceh Tsunami Museum is located on Jalan Iskandar Muda Street, Banda Aceh, and is open daily (except Friday) from 10.00-12.00 noon, and 15.00-17.00 West Indonesia Time.
The Museum building has adopted the traditional raised Aceh House , while at the same time it resembles a ship with itsprotruding funnel. The architecture of the museum combines Aceh’s traditional house with a shelter on raised ground to serve as evacuation center from an eventual tsunami. The building is decorated with patterns depicting the traditional Saman Dance, an illuminated graphic of the word “Allah” (God), and has an open urban garden.
The design and architecture were created by M.Ridwan Kamil, renowned architect who is currently Mayor of Bandung, capital city of West Java. The building layout also captures the epicenter of the disastrous earthquake and Tsunami.
Stepping inside, one will find a narrow corridor with water flowing from either side accompanied by a scary rumbling sounds,reminding of the devastations made by the 2004 tsunami. The Museum also features an electronic simulation of the Indian Ocean earthquake, pictures of the casualties, and stories and testimonies of survivors.
Building the museum had cost about IDR70 billion, and consists of 2 floors. The first floor is an open space area which serves as reminder of the tsunami disaster. There are several sections on the first floor which recall the unfortunate day including pre-tsunami, during the tsunami, and post-tsunami pictures. Several images, remnants, and a diorama are showcased here. Some of the most notable dioramas are fishing boats being hit by the high waves and dashed onto the shore. There is also a picture of the PLTD Apung Ship which was swept up and carried far inland to finally come aground at Punge Blang Cut.
The 2nd floor features educational media including a library, simulation rooms, 4D room, and a souvenirs shop. Some of the simulation showcased here are an earthquake resistant building and a model of the earth’s crust. There is also a roomdisplaying tsunami disaster paintings and diorama.
The Aceh Tsunami Museum was established on the initiative of several parties namely the Aceh-Nias Reconstruction Board, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, the Province of Aceh, the city of Banda Aceh, and the Association of Indonesian Architects.
The cafeteria at the museum has an open outdoor concept served by about 30 vendors. Here you can try some of the most popular Aceh cuisine such as Mie Aceh, Gulai Kambing, Rice Briyani, and Martabak Aceh.
And, while you are in the city, don’t forget to try the legendary Aceh Coffee which you will find served in the many cafés and traditional coffee shops found all over the city.
The Museum is the perfect place to observeand study how the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami devastated Aceh and what can be learnt from this.
Among unique features of the museum is a special room called The Light of God which is a cylindrical room leading to the inscription “Allah” (God) from above, which is an impressive sight illuminated by sunlight, creating an awesome spectacle. The wall of this room is called the Chamber of Blessings which inscribes all the names of identified victims in the disaster.
If you wish to experience the destructive force of the earthquake you can try the earthquake simulation room or touch the shaking table at different earthquake force levels. There is also the Hill of Light which is filled with a number of poles, that are used to place flowers in memory of the victims in this tragedy.
The Aceh Tsunami Museum is located at Jalan Iskandar Muda street in the heart of the city of Banda Aceh, near the Simpang Jam, the Clock tower Intersection. It is situated near the Blang Padang Field, next to the Dutch Cemetery or Kerkhof Peutjut.
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