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Fiji Time: 6:38 PM on Wednesday 23 April

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Chaos amid alarm bells

Margaret Wise
Thursday, February 07, 2013

THE chaos that erupted in the Sugar City when a tsunami warning was announced yesterday revealed a serious lack of preparedness.

A traffic jam that lasted for almost an hour in all routes out of the city would have spelt disastrous for the local population had the tsunami threat eventuated.

Buses filled with passengers were seen travelling towards the Lautoka City centre and school children released from some schools were spotted walking towards the bus station, along with workers looking for a quick passage home.

While store owners were quick to respond and began closing up as soon as the warning was issued, the same could not be said for transportation services and some schools.

Emergency service vehicles were effective in sounding sirens and warning people about the impending tsunami, but perhaps some sort of exit plan would be more effective in ensuring that people cleared the CBD as quickly as safely possible and directed to the nearest high ground until the all clear.

People were also spotted moving around the wharf area, minutes before the first wave was expected to hit the division. The casual manner in which boats were being boarded for the outer islands and the number of people loitering at the wharf area indicated that there was no sense of urgency or that warnings were not being heeded or taken seriously.

While there were those who heeded the warnings and moved to safety as soon as they could, there is no doubt the casualty count would have been significant had there been a real tsunami.