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Panic spreads across Maldives with tusnami alert

11 April 2012 No Comment

As the first rains of the Southwest monsoon fell on the capital city of Maldives, people were evacuating buildings and waiting anxiously on the streets, after a tsunami alert was issued following an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra on Wednesday. In several islands of the Maldives, the whole population gathered in the center of the island. Schools were evacuated and children were sent home. In a country with a very high mobile phone usage, the entire mobile phone network is crippled because thousands of people are simultaneously trying to call family and friends across the country.

The panic is understandable as the memories of the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 is still fresh. Haveeru reports that in Thaa Atoll Vilufushi, an island badly hit by the 2004 tsunami, people are still gathered in mosques.

Compared to that disaster, Maldivians are currently receiving real-time information through radio, TV and the Internet. Hopefully, people will be wise enough to stay away from the shores and seek safer places.

According to reports, some wave action has been generated in the coastal regions of Indonesia due to the earthquake. However, if a full-fledged tsunami will develop is yet not clear and it is very unlikely that a disastrous wave will reach the Maldives. However, this is a good time to ask ourselves how prepared we are for such a disaster and to find any holes and glitches in our disaster preparedness plans.

SMS seems to be working even though calls are not easy to make through the mobile phone network. Local newspapers Haveeru and Sun are bringing real-time updates in Dhivehi.

11 April is a significant date in the history of natural disasters in the Maldives. On 11-12 April 1987 tidal waves hit and flooded a large part of Male’ and caused damages to some 16 other islands. The seawall around Male’ was built with Japanese aid after the 1987 flooding.

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