Sri Lanka “ready for any tsunami”

Posted on July 24, 2006  /  8 Comments

The Sri Lanka Disaster Minister is quoted by the Sunday Times (23 July 2006, p. 2) as stating that “In the wake of last week’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Indonesia, the country was fully prepared within 23 minutes as an early warning reached the Met Department.”

According to the 17 July timeline.ppt, the PTWC and the Japanese Center issued the first bulletin within 17 minutes of the earthquake. The Minister indicates that the entire country was fully prepared within 6 minutes of receiving that bulletin. This may possibly be a world record.

If we assume the 23 minutes was counted from the time the warning was received, the country was ready 40 minutes after the earthquake. Even that is extraordinary. The Sri Lankan official who was interviewed by the Associated Press does not seem to have been aware of this great achievement and simply talked about plans and sirens in religious establishments. It appears that the international press is badly informed or is maliciously supressing Sri Lanka’s achievements.

The Minister further stated ” all we need is 20 minutes to warn the people if they are in imminent danger since there are 15-20 disaster management officials in all coastal districts who are ready to evacuate the people.” The Times states that the disaster management personnel are mainly army, navy and air force officers who have undergone “vigorous training to evacuate people living on the coast to higher grounds which have now been identified.”
“The people in these areas too are trained to follow route maps to reach safety in case of a tsunami. Police in these areas have been given megaphones to help in the process.”

The Ministry has already received funds from UNESCAP to build three tsunami warning towers in the Eastern, Northern and Southern Provinces and hopes to build another 25 towers by December 26 [2006] to mark the second anniversary of the disaster, according to the Times.

To summarize:

  • Sri Lanka only needs twenty minutes to act on a tsunami warning. It took precisely 23 minutes on 17 July 2006, but action is being taken to shave off 3 minutes from the response time.
  • There are 15-20 disaster management officials in each coastal district, mainly from the forces, giving a total of 15 x 10 = 150 in all. [One assumes different arrangements are in place for Jaffna, Mulativu, Mannar, Kilinochchi, Trinco, Batticaloa, Ampara districts which are not fully under government control]
  • They have identified the vulnerable populations and trained them.
  • They have also identified the evacuation paths and the safe locations to move the people to.
  • The Police, not the disaster management personnel, have been issued megaphones to assist in evacuations, suggesting close coordination between the Police and the disaster personnel.
  • Funds have been received for three warning towers, one each for the Northern, Eastern and Southern provinces.
  • Funds have not been received, but will be sought for 25 additional towers. Fund raising, procurment under government procedures and construction will be all completed within five months, giving a total of 28 operational warning towers along the coastline by 26 December 2006.

If all this is true, there is no question that Sri Lanka is the country that is best prepared for a tsunami. On this strength alone, the Disaster Minister should be nominated to a UN post, shortly after the inauguration of the 28 warning towers on 26 December 2006. We have no doubt he will be accepted with acclaim.


  1. Dear Rohan,

    For all your experience with disaster management, you are obviously missing the point. The tsunami is a part of a vast conspiracy against Sinhala Buddhists – has the facts.



  2. Tsunami comes once in a way

    The major problem is we are losing the Sinhala language

    Why cant these guys understand that issue the same way they had written for other subjects


    Donald Gaminitillake

  3. Donald:

    Three tsunamis in less than two years; over 500 deaths in each case. People still without housing and livelihoods. You’re pouring you heart and soul into a debate on standards, an issue most people seem to think is adequately resolved.

    No need to derogate other people’s priorities. We did not ridicule yours. The world’s problems are big enough for all of us to coexist. If we all do our little bit without venting at other people the world’s work will get done.

    No one person has the monopoly on the truth. You will make progress with your project if you show respect for others.

    Right now you’re spinning in one place. The bottomline about standards is that they have to be accepted by a large number of people. The best standard does not win; the most accepted one does. How good are you at winning people over to your ideas?

  4. Professor,

    No use of convincing Donald. You n gave him a good chance to voice what he believes. So did most of the newspapers. But Donald never knew how to utilize the support. This is why nobody wants to be in his camp. He cannot control himself and lose all his support base. Promoting Donald (or his method) is like commiting suicide.


    When will you understand this? Samarajiwa was helping you. Listen to intelligent people. Shouting vociferously doesnt mean your idea is correct. Facts make an idea correct. Do not make an uncomfortable environment to people. Do not act like a bull in a china shop. You have put enough people in trouble by camping with you. All the newspapers left you due to this attitude of yours. Very soon blogs too leave you behind.

    People like VK and GD are laughing at you because you have make a clown out of you.


  5. Quote
    You have put enough people in trouble by camping with you.

    This is a very intersting quote.
    What was the trouble they got in & from whom!!! Specify it!!!

    All the newspapers left you due to this attitude of yours

    What was my attitude? To tell the truth? To challange the Elite?
    Problem is the media knows the truth but scared to publish.

    Promoting Donald (or his method) is like commiting suicide.

    Now you are scared because I am going head to head with the target.

    Come on the Standard page where I have placed some answers & questions

    Donald Gaminitillake

  6. Twenty eight towers promised; one delivered.

    Not even the three for which funding was already in place got built.   North and East forgotten.

    Enough said.

  7. North and East forgotten???????

    Ha. Ha. Ha. Big deal. Who worries about North and East?

    No votes in North and East for our party. Why save them from tsunami?

    Helping Hambantota is only what matters because all the votes are there.