More than 80 Norwegians were killed in the tsunami that ravaged coastal areas around the Indian Ocean 10 years ago. Most of them were on Christmas holiday in Thailand at the time, and many gathered to remember them at a memorial on Bygdøy in Oslo on Friday.
Foreign Minister Børge Brende promised the victims’ families that Norway will never forget that Norwegian authorities did not handle the crisis well enough at the time. The ministry was unprepared for the magnitude of such a crisis, so far away.
“We know that the pain of the survivors was made worse by Norwegian authorities who weren’t prepared to help,” Brende, of the Conservative Party, said at the memorial. His party held government power at that time as well, and his predecessor Jan Pedersen has also admitted that the emergency response was unacceptable.
“Entire communities were swept away, along with hopes, dreams and plans for the future,” Brende said. “Among the victims were 84 Norwegians, 26 of them children. As with so many other tragedies, it lacked meaning.”
The memorial just before the weekend, 10 years to the day of the tragedy on December 26, 2014, was also attended by Crown Prince Haakon, Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Jonas Gahr Støre, leader of the Labour Party. Støre connected the cold waters of the Oslo Fjord off Bygdøy with the warm waters off Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and east Africa, where at least 226,000 were killed by the waves set off by a powerful earthquake near the coast of Sumatra. Tens of thousands of people are still registered as missing in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and Thailand.
“And we know that millions of people have gathered in grief now, and we are among them,” Støre said.
Most of the Norwegians killed were on holiday in Khao Lak in Thailand, a popular winter destination for vacationing Norwegians. A memorial was erected on Bygdøy to the victims, and that’s where Friday’s memorial ceremony took place.
“For many of us, not a day goes by that we don’t think about what happened that day,” said Trond T Kalleberg, leader of the victims’ support group. Stein Vangen, a pastor in the Norwegian Seamen’s Church, noted that many survivors have suffered as well but he assured them that it was okay to celebrate that they’d survived the killer wave. “No one wanted the list of the dead to be any longer,” he said.