Banda Aceh: Thousands of people were due on Thursday at a memorial in Indonesia's Aceh province, the epicentre of the Indian Ocean tsunami, as the world prepared to mark a decade since a disaster that took 220,00 lives and laid waste to coastal areas in 14 countries.
On December 26, 2004 a 9.3-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia's western coast sparked a series of towering waves that wrought destruction across countries as far apart as Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Somalia.
Among the victims were thousands of foreign holidaymakers enjoying Christmas on the region's sun-kissed beaches, striking tragedy into homes around the world.
Tsunami survivors and rescue workers will lead several thousand people in a gathering at Banda Aceh's black-domed Baiturrahman Grand Mosque for memorial prayers late Thursday.
Aceh's governor is set to give an address at the mosque, one of the few buildings which withstood the wrath of the massive earthquake and ensuing waves which left 170,000 people in the country dead or missing.
"Prayers are being held in memory of the victims who perished or went missing," tsunami anniversary committee chairman Azhari Hasan said.
"We also hope that survivors -- and the families they left behind -- can stay strong and be aware of the (future) threat of disasters," he added.
In Meulaboh, a fishing town considered to be the ground zero of the tsunami -- where 35 metre-high waves flattened almost everything -- Indonesian flags were flown at half-mast as residents prepared to hold night prayers.
But the main memorials were planned for tomorrow morning, starting in Aceh which was hit first by the waves, then moving to Thailand later in the day where candlelit ceremonies are expected in resort hubs of Phuket and Khao Lak.
There will also be events in Sri Lanka, including at the site where a train carrying 1,500 people was washed away, as well as in several European capitals to honour foreign nationals who perished.