Was Sri Lanka’s reaction to tsunami alert today early morning effective enough? Did we observe the dos and don’ts?
We do not jump to conclusions. The information is inadequate and contradictory at times. We will try reconstructing from what we heard, from mass media and other sources. Please feel free to add your own story as a comment.
An underwater earthquake, measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale, off the coast of Andaman and Nicobar Islands triggered tsunami fears in Sri Lanka. Soon after, a ‘tsunami watch’ alert was issued by the US-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC).
The Regional Tsunami Watch Bulletin was issued for India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia at 01.04 hours Sri Lanka Time 18 minutes after the quake. (00.46 hours) A second message called off the alert to countries except India 44 minutes later. So by 01.48 hours everything should have been back to normal in Sri Lanka.
According to Lankadeepa online, the disaster warning towers in Matara, Weligama, Devinuwara and Dikwella issued an alert (no time is given) that triggered evacuations in South. Lankadeepa says the chaotic situation prevailed till 05.00 hours.
Daily Mirror reported evacuations in the Eastern coast, which was just 1,000 km away from the epicenter. Both Police announcements and tsunami towers broadcasted the ‘warning’.
A Sinhala blogger reported mass evacuations in Matara.
Another blogger said the tsunami alert in Matara was called off at 03.00 hours.
The evacuations were not necessary, as it was only a tsunami watch and not a warning. It could be the initiation of the local authorities. Public could have taken the step on their own too, as strong tremors have been felt in different parts of the island, including Colombo, Moratuwa, Galle, Matara, Anuradhapura, Kandy and Batticaloa.
Disaster Management Center spokesman, Priyantha Kodippily meanwhile said they had not issued an evacuation order and people along the coastal belt had moved out on their own, reported Daily Mirror.
According to Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, General Secretary of Sarvodaya movement, who spent the early morning hours listening to Sarvodaya volunteers from the field, it was a different story.
No television channel issued an alert till about 03.00 hours, he says. Rupavahini’s ‘breaking news’ came only when he was going back to sleep after the cancellation of the alert. The only text message he received was from Ada Derana. It said “Tsunami Warning issued for Sri Lanka after 7.7mag earthquake near Nicobar Island India; people on coast asked to be alert says Met Dept.”
Disaster Management Center of Sri Lanka web site didn’t issue the alert, but later published the cancellation. It said “No Tsunami Threat to Sri Lanka due to the Earthquake of 7.5 magnatude(sic) occured (sic) in Nicobar Islands at 01.05 a.m. (sic – this should be 00.46 am) on 13th June 2010.”