Swedish tsunami help “came too late”

Despite a desperate need for assistance in Thailand after the tsunami on Boxing Day last year, the Swedish healthcare authorities reacted too slowly.

That is the conclusion of the catastrophe commission which delivered its report on Tuesday.

“The delays in supplying healthcare caused injured Swedish citizens considerable suffering,” wrote the authors, Sten Lennquist, a surgeon and professor emeritus, and Timothy Hodgetts, and expert in disaster medicine.

The criticism extends to ministerial level, with foreign minister Laila Freivalds receiving special attention. Sweden’s Social Services were also rapped for a lack of leadership and initiative.

But the primary reason for the delays was, according to the report, a lack of planning and organisation at departmental levels. That caused delays in the decision-making process, even though there was plenty of information available about the situation on the ground in Thailand.

There were over 20,000 Swedes in the area at the time of the tsunami. Around 1,500 were injured and over 540 are so far confirmed dead.

Evacuation of injured Swedes should have begun earlier, argued the report, and there should have been more doctors and nurses at the congregation points to provide treatment.

“Despite the fact that the Thai medical people did all they could in this situation, there were nowhere near enough staff or material resources,” said Lennquist and Hodgetts.