Analysis: tsunami response – who didn’t do what

When the tsunami struck south east Asia on December 26th 2004, most of Sweden was still celebrating Christmas.

But it soon became clear that the distant disaster was to have massive repercussions at home. Some 20,000 Swedes were holidaying in Thailand and the final death toll for Sweden was 543. Indeed, more people from Swede lost their lives than from any other country not directly hit by the massive tidal waves.

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Swedes on the ground in Thailand were vocal in their criticism of the lack of assistance from the Swedish government.

The response seemed to be characterised by confusion and hesitation – and even apathy, as the then foreign minister Laila Freivalds went to the theatre on the same day, and health minister Ylva Johansson went on holiday shortly after.

Over 15 months later, the parliamentary constitution committee’s inquiry into the government’s response to the disaster has delivered its verdict.

The spotlight fell on the specific failings of six ministers.

Göran Persson – Prime Minister

Göran Persson > Lack of allocation of crisis responsibilities

> No emergency drills

> Did not seek more information

> Did not remove financial obstacles to relief

Laila Freivalds – Foreign Minister

Laila Freivalds > Failings in foreign ministry information management

> Did not commit resources fast enough

> Did not seek more information

> Lack of disaster preparation

Leni Björklund – Defence Minister

Leni Björklund > Did not contact prime minister or foreign minister

> Should have assisted Swedish Rescue Services Agency efforts

> Lack of inter-departmental coordination

Ylva Johansson – Health Minister

Ylva Johansson > Went on holiday shortly after the catastrophe

> Should have ensured that the health ministry was more actively involved in supporting the foreign ministry with medical relief

Carin Jämtin – Aid Minister

Carin Jämtin > Too focused on aid issues

> Should have alerted the prime minister, the foreign minister and other ministers instead of civil servants

Pär Nuder – Finance Minister

Pär Nuder

> Should have been more active in removing financial obstacles to any emergency relief work

Louis Roper

Photos: Magnus Fröderberg / / Pawel Flato

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