Memories of Aceh: Indonesia Five Years After the Tsunami

A TIME reporter recalls ground-zero of a cataclysm and the global outpouring of relief that helped Banda Aceh recover

Olivier Culmann / Tendance Floue for TIME

Building a small beachside shop in Aceh. Major construction is set back from the sea.

"The destination you have dialed does not exist."

It is Jan. 9, 2005. I have spent two weeks in Thailand reporting on a tsunami that has transformed its famous beach resorts into corpse-strewn ruins. One night, exhausted, my clothes reeking of death, I try calling a colleague in the hard-hit Indonesian province of Aceh. I simply misdial, but the recorded message gives me chills: "The destination you have dialed..."

Aceh did exist, of course, but with 166,000 dead or missing it had borne the brunt of the Indian Ocean tsunami, triggered...

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