The fax copy of a letter issued by National Tsunami Early Warning Center started circulating on social media from October 13 and it was claimed that there is a Tsunami alert to those who were living along the coastal areas of the island.
Fact Crescendo Sri Lanka investigated these claims and learnt that the message being shared was related to a Tsunami alert program organized by the Disaster Management Center and was not a genuine Tsunami alert.
Facebook user Pantaleon Perera and many other social media users shared a fax message in a misleading manner requesting netizens to be on alert for a Tsunami warning.
The message was published in Sinhala, Tamil and English languages. English version of the message is as follows:
“Earthquakes of this size have potential to generate ocean-wide tsunamis. Therefore, those living near and along the coast around the island are advised to be attentive regarding this.
As and when new information becomes available, they will be publicized through media to the public.” Below is a screengrab of one such Facebook post.
Since the fax copy had the stamping of National Disaster Relief Services Center (ජාතික ආපදා සහන සේවා මධ්යස්ථානය) we checked their social media accounts and found the following message which was originally published by the Department of Meteorology – Sri Lanka.
“There is No Tsunami Threat to Sri Lanka up till now. There was an international Tsunami simulation exercise (IOWave 2020) for the Indian Ocean Region conducted today (13th Oct 20).”
We contacted the Disaster Management Center (DMC), which is considered as the premier agency for disaster management in Sri Lanka. In a telephone discussion Mr. Pradeep Kodippili, spokesperson of DMC clarified that a rehearsal on the implementation of operating systems was held yesterday (October 13), coinciding with the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2020, at a few selected coastal locations in Sri Lanka.
He added that 28 countries in the Indian Ocean had participated in this exercise and the operating procedures are documented. This time the drills were conducted in a low scale manner without public involvement due to the prevailing situation in the country. Mr. Kodippili further added that someone who had not read the instructions of the letter had shared the letter, which was never meant for public, this led to the confusion in Beruwala area.
As Mr. Kodippili stated, in the letter you can find the following highlighted text “TEST TEST TEST TEST TEST – EXERCISE 10WAVE20 – NOT A REAL TSUNAMI EVENT”. However, the text at the bottom of the letter was in a relatively small script at the bottom of the fax, which had probably caused the misunderstanding
Disaster Management Centre (DMC) has published a notice on their official Facebook page about this rehearsal as well.
We found a news article published in the Daily Mirror about this fax copy titled “No tsunami threat or drill in Beruwala; DMC”. DMC Spokesperson had explained, “Someone had conveyed misinformation to the Divisional Secretariat, Beruwala saying that there would be a drill. Accordingly, the Divisional Secretariat had announced in the area that a tsunamic drill was being held and many people had left their homes in panic”
Below is a video report of the commotion, which happened in Beruwala due to this misunderstanding.
October 13th was International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2020 and Director of UNESCO, Jakarta had explained the role of UNESCO sites as the models for localizing Sustainable Developmental Goals and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. FB link | Archived link
The Hindu had reported about the low-key tsunami mock drills, which were conducted in India simultaneously.
From our investigation that there was no tsunami threat to Sri Lanka on October 13 as confirmed by the Disaster Management Centre Sri Lanka. Letter for a Tsunami drill was misinterpreted as a genuine Tsunami alert.
Title:Letter for a Tsunami Drill misinterpreted as a Genuine Tsunami AlertFact Check By: Nelson Mani