National Disaster Relief and Management Committee headed by Najib should learn from the failure to have an early warning system that could have saved scores of lives lost in the devastating tsunami yesterday
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Monday): I wish to send my deepest condolences to the bereaved families of the victims of the giant tsunami waves in Malaysia triggered by the powerful undersea earthquake in Sumatra yesterday.
Malaysians are shocked that what was “unthinkable” has happened, and that Malaysia is not immune from the devastating aftermath of natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.
While all efforts must be made to help the victims of the tsunami yesterday and to prepare the people for the possibility of further waves of the Sumatra earthquake, which measured 9.0 Richter scale, the National Disaster Relief and Management Committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should learn from the failure to have an early warning system that could have saved scores of lives lost in the devastating tsunami in Penang, Kedah, Perlis and Perak yesterday.
The tsunami catastrophe is the worst natural disaster in the history of the country, and although Malaysia did not suffer the brunt of the calamity like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, this is no consolation when every human life lost could have been saved if an early warning system had been in place.
The devastation in human lives and suffering yesterday could have been largely averted if Malaysia and other south-east Asian countries had taken their discussions last year seriously about introducing an early warning system for tsunamis although they happen very rarely in the Indian Ocean.
As has been pointed out by an oceanic and atmospheric expert, it took an hour and a half for the wave to get from the earthquake in Sumatra to Sri Lanka and an hour for it to get to the west coast of Malaysia and Thailand, and people could have walked inland for 15 minutes to get to a safe area. But such a tsunami early warning system was completely absent.
Instead, many people yesterday were attracted by the spectacular waves until they were swept into the water and lost their lives.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman