Banda Aceh is the provincial capital and largest city in the province of Aceh, Indonesia, located on the island of Sumatra, with an elevation of 21 meters. The city regency covers an area of 64 square kilometres and according to the 2000 census had a population of 219,070 people. Banda Aceh is located at the northwestern tip of Indonesia at the mouth of the River Krueng Aceh.
The city was originally named Kutaraja, and determined as the provincial capital in 1956. Kuta Raja means "City of the King", in reference to the founding of the Aceh Sultanate from Champa origins. Later its name was changed to Bandar Aceh Darussalam or popularly known as Banda Aceh, with the first part of the name coming from the Persian bandar (بندر) meaning "port" or "haven". It is also referred to as the "port to Mecca", as Islam first arrived in Aceh before spreading throughout Southeast Asia.
Banda Aceh was not frequently the subject of international discussion until December 26, 2004, the day the Indian Ocean earthquake struck off the western coast of Sumatra. Banda Aceh was the closest major city to the earthquake's epicenter, and suffered further damage when a tsunami struck shortly afterward. It was the worst hit area out of all the locations hit. 167,000 people died and many more were injured. The tsunamis resulted from an earthquake of magnitude 9.3 and struck at about 6:58am. The epicenter was about 155 miles off the coast of Banda Aceh.
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