Indian govt blamed for creating panic
NEW DELHI: India’s media on Friday lambasted the government for causing tens of thousands of people to flee from coastal areas battered by tsunamis after it sounded an alert, which a minister later said was “hogwash”.
The defence and home ministries on Thursday morning issued an alert to evacuate two kilometres inland after a quake shook Indonesia and little known US-based firm Terra Research posted a warning that an earthquake measuring more than seven on the Richter scale could imminently occur. In such an event, further giant waves could swamp Asian coastlines again, it warned.
After the official alerts, tens of thousands of people in the southern Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which were hard hit of Sunday’s tsunamis, fled inland, many screaming, “the water is coming, the water is coming”, correspondents said. By late afternoon when that did not happen, embarrassed officials told rescue workers to resume operations, and Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal accused the home ministry of picking up “hogwash” in issuing the alert.
After having earlier highlighted how India’s bureaucracy had bungled the first real alerts of Sunday’s tsunami, losing precious time that might have saved lives, the media was unsparing Friday in criticising the Home Ministry.
“Run survivor run: It’s not quake, it’s not wave, it’s the Home Ministry,” the Indian Express mocked in its main headline.
The Times of India was equally scathing: “Govt shoots mouth, triggers panic”, it said in a banner.
“Not only did it lead to eight hours of already frayed nerves, it derailed relief as it pushed people — and rescue and relief agencies — out of homes, making them run away from villages to places they thought would be safer,” the Indian Express said. The Times of India accused the government of getting “its knickers in a twist” over the tsunami warning. “But it threw millions along the coastline into panic and disrupted urgent relief work,” it added. The Asian Age deprecatingly said the alert boiled down to “two ministers contradicting each other on what turned out to be a false scare.”
The Tribune said confusion over the alert hit relief work and simply showed up “the lack of cooperation among various departments of the central government.” afp