Government had early tsunami warning

More people in the Government Offices were alerted to the tsunami in Thailand early on the morning of the catastrophe than was previously known, according to information Swedish Radio has received from the prime minister's office.

It has emerged that around 40 staff, including two ministers, received a news alert from TT about the tsunami at 5.42am on December 26th 2004.

TT’s newsflash – an alert which is sent to all mobile phones connected to the service – read: “Many tourists missing after enormous tidal waves swept in over the holiday resort Phuket in southern Thailand, said national radio.”

Among the recipients of the message were vice Prime Minister – and now temporary Foreign Minister – Bosse Ringholm, and Infrastructure Minister Ulrica Messing.

In principle, all ministers’ information secretaries use the TT alert service, according to Swedish Radio.

Despite the fact that Göran Persson’s press office was also sent the TT newsflash, nobody there informed the prime minister of what had happened in Thailand. A second alert from TT 20 minutes later reported that at least 160 people had died after a wave struck Sri Lanka.

One of those who reacted to the alert was Lennart Brittner, responsible for preparedness and intelligence in the Ministry of Defence.

Brittner sent an email at 6.28am stating that the tsunami was serious and that many Swedes could have been affected. One of the issues considered by the parliamentary inquiry into the government’s response to the disaster has been who received that email.

The parliamentary committee’s inquiry is scheduled to be completed on Thursday.