New Year Deluge in the Maldives


When I went to the office on that calm Sunday morning everyone was talking about the small earthquake tremor that was felt in the capital Male� at around 6.30 am in the morning. tsunami_map.JPGThere was no acknowledgment of the earthquake by the government media yet banned opposition sites confirmed the earthquake and its links with Indonesian earthquake early in the morning. At around 9.35 am somebody shouted in horror that the sea was coming. We ran near the windows and my goodness, the sea was coming in like a torrent. The roads were flooded up to the knees and people were shouting, crying and screaming in shock. No body in living memory has seen such a thing.

Male� the Capital was spared most of the damage thanks to the Japanese built tetrapod breakwater across the island. The total number casualties is over 70 and some 40 people are missing. The number is likely to double when everything settles down.

boy_flood.JPGOne person from the Laamu atoll I met told about the horror he witnessed when tsunami came in. At around 9.30 in the morning while he was sitting near his beach front home, suddenly the sea disappeared for about half a mile. He could see the fishes gasping and struggling on the dry sea-bed. It stayed like that for about five to six minutes then the waves started coming in like a torrent. He was saved when he jumped on to a boat nearby.

Compared with other countries, Maldives is lucky that waves were not as high as that hit India and Sri Lanka. The 200 islands that are inhabited and some 80 resort islands are at their highest 3 feet above sea level.
When the shock had subsided most people were feeling angry at the way government handled the whole thing. The government established a Task Force at one of the schools (it might be more appropriately called a Confusion Force). The telecommunication system had broken down and even after 24 hours there was no contact and news from many of the islands. People asked why was there no early warning of a possible tsunami as everyone new of the massive earthquake that occurred off Sumatra. To make things worse some of relief supplies sent by the government to the islands had labels such as �complements from such and such a person� (this was the time of election campaign for the parliament). It is amazing that some senior government officials had the guts to do such a thing during a time of national disaster.

street_flood.JPGAs the Maldives economy wholly depends on tourism (in Thailand tourism is about 12% of GDP and about 9% of employment), the Maldives can be said to be relatively the worst hit of the countries affected. We would need huge assistance from foreign countries to get back on our feet. But more importantly the country needs accountable leaders and prudent management of the country�s thin public finances. We cannot afford the current levels of waste and endemic corruption.

The best way one could help is to urge your governments to assist Maldives (probably in-kind assistance will be the most helpful in the short-term). Below please find the account details set up by the government for donation:

Name of the Accounts: Ministry of Finance and Treasury - Disaster Relief Fund
Bank: Bank of Maldives PLC, Mal�, Republic of Maldives
Account numbers:
7701 - 147 900 - 002 (Foreign Currency)
7701 - 147 900 - 001 (Local Currency)
Assistance urgently required for relief operations: Water, Food (eg: Packet food), Medicine and Clothing.



Good to know you're safe.

thanks Vinayak
hope your friends,relatives and collegues back
home in Madras are safe


Yup, everyone safe thankfully. My parents have a lot of friends in Sri Lanka that lost a lot of family members. Thats the worst part... and each has a tragic story attached to how it happened - the men who were strong held on watching their loved ones wash away... its a lot to take in.


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on December 31, 2004 9:40 PM.

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