Tsunami: Government defends itself

The Swedish government has rejected criticisms of the way it handled its response to the Asian tsunami catastrophe on 26th December last year.

The government’s reaction is contained in a response to a question from the Swedish parliament’s constitutional committee.

The Prime Minister’s Office’s report admits, however, that the government should have met on the day of the catastrophe to make decisions on the evacuation and rescue of those affected. It took two days before ministers got together.

Sweden offered help to Thailand on the evening of 26th December – an offer the Thais accepted the following day.

The Foreign Ministry informed the Swedish Rescue Services Agency of this immediately – not, as previously reported, after a delay. The agency however demanded the green light from the defence ministry before it started work. This despite the fact that the Foreign Ministry offered to foot the bill.

The Foreign and Defence Ministries disagree on how long the rescue operation was then delayed. The two ministries’ accounts differ by six hours.

The government explains in its answer that the reason for the delay in evacuating Swedes was due to the fact that when tour operators first contacted the Foreign Ministry on 26th December, they said that they could handle the situation alone.

It soon became clear that the tour operators needed help, but it was only on the 28th that the decision was made that the Swedish state and the airline SAS would handle return flights for those affected. It was not possible to get all those involved to meetings on the 27th.

Claims that Sweden had received offers of help from a number of other nations to fly Swedes home were also denied. The Prime Minister’s Office said it was untrue that all these offers had reached Sweden.

Reports had also been circulation that the police had claimed that the Foreign Ministry was unable to cope with the registration of the dead, missing and injured, due to the extra pressure on its computer systems.

The government says that these claims must be based on false information or misunderstandings. The Foreign Ministry’s computers did not crash, it says.

Newspaper reports that the Foreign Ministry turned down an offer from the police to handle lists of victims were vigorously denied. The lists were not discussed, it says, and conversations were focused instead on the police’s identification commission.

TT/The Local

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