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False tsunami warning causes panic

By Aabida Allaham

Social media users created a sense of panic yesterday after the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii mistakenly reported that the Caribbean was under a tsunami watch.

Following a 7.6 magnitude earthquake off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, the PTWC meant to issue a Tsunami Watch for the Pacific region, but accidentally sent it for the Caribbean instead at 10.47 a.m. after the quake struck at 10.42 a.m.

On Twitter, the global news organisation Reuters tweeted "Live coverage: 7.9-magnitude earthquake rattles the coast of Costa Rica; tsunami watch for Caribbean in effect".

Then @NewEarthquake tweeted "Caribbean-wide tsunami watch: tsunami watch in effect for Brazil/Barbados/Trinidad Tobago/French Guiana/Saint Lucia".

Those particular messages were each re-tweeted more than 300 times before the PTWC could correct its error. And it did so three minutes after transmitting the Caribbean warning.

In fact, the PTWC issued the correction at 10:50 a.m.

"The tsunami watch for the Caribbean is cancelled because it was meant for the Pacific and was inadvertently sent to the Caribbean by mistake.  We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused," the bulletin read.

However, messages continued to spread that the Caribbean was on a tsunami watch.

On Facebook, Robert L posted "People, don't go near the water, T and T under tsunami warning" on his wall.

And again on Twitter @SelenaMafia tweeted "Trinidad is on tsunami watch due to Costa Rica's earthquake"

In wake of the hysteria throughout the Caribbean, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) issued a statement asking the public to note the cancellation of the warning.

"The public is asked to note the cancellation of the Tsunami Warning issued today…the Tsunami Warning was issued in error," the statement read.

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) also issued a statement advising that Trinidad and Tobago was not under any tsunami threat, saying that only national and Local Government authorities can make decisions regarding the official state of alert in their area, similar to hurricane watches and warnings.

Once the message began spreading that the watch was erroneously sent out, people began questioning whether Trinidad and Tobago could survive such a seismic event.

@Carlykays wrote: "Trinidad and Tobago will never be prepared for a tsunami or any huge natural disaster since our government blindly lives by God is a Trini".

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