Tsunami survivor's diary

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The Independent Online

The night of 28 March will stay in my mind for ever. After three months of slow recovery from the disaster of 26 December, it felt like a huge step backwards.

The night of 28 March will stay in my mind for ever. After three months of slow recovery from the disaster of 26 December, it felt like a huge step backwards.

All the hopes of starting a new life after the tsunami dissolved in an instant as Sumatra suffered another earthquake. That evening the neighbours woke us up, warning that another tsunami was on its way. The government told everyone to leave the coastal areas immediately, a message delivered by police and army who patrolled the streets with loudspeakers, telling us to flee to higher ground.

Seven people died in the panic as families loaded with all the possessions they could carry ran away from the sea, including one local person who suffered a heart attack through shock. One man even committed suicide when the alarm was raised.

Nearly a month later, the renewed paranoia has meant that people are still leaving their homes at night to go and stay with relatives inland. Everyone watches the news constantly - when an earthquake struck Japan last week, we immediately feared another tsunami.

Rebuilding is under way in my area, but the government has ruled that no permanent structures should be erected for 18 months. A number of those who lost their homes have moved from tents into "transitional" houses which are made of wood, with a metal roof. But they have no electricity or running water, and are too small for a family to live in.

I don't understand why it is taking so long to build new houses. And when people got tired of waiting and started erecting new shelters where their homes used to stand, the government told them they couldn't live there, because of the new rule preventing construction within 100 metres of the shore. The problem is that there's not enough spare room inland for new houses.

Even if we do get homes, there are no jobs. Carpenters, masons and fishermen used to earn good money, but no longer have the equipment to work. This is making people feel depressed and useless.

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