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Sunday, January 02, 2005
Why No Tsunami Warning



A week has passed by since the event of 26/12, the tsunami catastrophe. The number of those who died as a result of the tsunamis is still being counted, the total death toll is now more than 141,000, more than 80,00 alone in Indonesia. Many are still missing and not accounted for. In the meanwhile the world has responded well to this tragedy and aid is pouring in for the survivors and those affected by the tsunamis. What is now called the "second wave of death" is feared from diseases in the tsunami devastated places.

The general consensus is that there would have been fewer deaths if timely early warnings had been available and given. In Malaysia the lack of such warnings are being questioned by those affected and also by opposition party DAP. The DAP is calling for public inquiry to find the answers to why the various government authorities had failed to sound any warning of danger although it had two to three hours lead time. Malaysian tsunami death toll remains at 66 with 203 injured and 6 missing. Penang CM TanSri Koh has called for proper criteria for early warning. He said the National Disaster Relief & Management committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak needed to fix the criteria and procedure so that all parties would know how to respond when a national disaster occurs.

Now there is a Swedish paper, Expressen, reporting that tsunami warning was halted in Thailand out of concern for tourist industry. This report stated that Thailand's daily, the Nation, said ::
Just minutes after the earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Sunday morning, Thailand’s foremost meteorological experts were sitting together in a crisis meeting. But they decided not to warn about the tsunami "out of courtesy to the tourist industry," writes the Thailand daily newspaper The Nation.

The experts got the news around 8:00 am on Sunday morning local time. An hour later, the first massive wave struck. But the experts started to discuss the economic impacts when they discussed if a tsunami warning should be issued.

------

"We finally decided not to do anything because the tourist season was in full swing," the source said. "The hotels were 100 percent booked. What if we issued a warning, which would have led to an evacuation, and nothing had happened. What would be the outcome? The tourist industry would be immediately hurt. Our department would not be able to endure a lawsuit."

This report by the Nation has not been independently confirmed, this is mentioned by the Washington Post.

CNN reports that the tsunamis may be Sweden's worst disaster. There are more than 3,000 visitors from Sweden among the missing in Thailand. 59 Swedes have so far been confirmed dead. With a population of only 9 million, Sweden's expected loss of life proportionately matches that of Indonesia, and is exceeded only by Sri Lanka says the CNN report.

In Malaysia, Malaysiakini has this question :: Tsunami disaster: Gov’t negligent? Our PM has called for a postmortem in order to prepare future rescue plan, more than that the postmortem must enquire into why there was no early warning this time around, why there appeared to be a paralysis of the various gomen departments involved in national disaster management. MGG has also questioned :: The collapse, through gross negligence, of the national disaster systems and centres. Will the postmortem that is going to be carried out provide us with a clearer picture of what happened in Malaysia after the Sumatran quake was registerd by the Seismology Division of our Meteorological Services Department?

In Thailand, the Nation, also called for a thorough postmortem study to determine what went wrong, particularly with the rescue and relief capabilities and readiness to respond to crises. It questioned why there was no warning that a tsunami could strike after the news about the earthquake off the shore of Sumatra was flashed by news agencies. It also questioned why after the shocking magnitude of the calamity was known, there was another tragedy. Nobody was in charge to direct the rescue and relief operations.

This is also important we will definitely take care of ourselves first before expecting others to take care of us. We will have to learn some lessons from these tsunamis and have a higher sense of personal safety. Those who are supposed to take care and warn us may have wrong priorities when disaster are about to occur or soon after it occurs, so do remember safety first is very important :: "oon chieng tai yat"


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