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"If you are responsible for a certain matter, you have that responsibility even in times of crisis. This time the Ministry of foreign affairs was responsible. If it grows over your head you have to ring the bell loud and clear. They didn't do that."
Lars Danielsson in an interview with TT 2007-06-14.

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The 2004 Tsunami Disaster in South East Asia and Swedish Crisis Management Performance

by Kerstin Castenfors and Ann dlund
Swedish Defense Research Agency (FOI), Section for Defense Analysis 2007-06-15

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Sweden and the Tsunami - Evaluation and Proposals
Summary of the main report from
The Swedish Tsunami Commission (SOU 2005:104)

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Read also Hard Rain no 5

"The Tsunami debate - a low mark in Swedish domestic politics"

 
Hard Rain    No 30    June 18, 2007
The crying ambassador
The National Defense Research Agency (FOI) has analyzed what crucial factors and phenomena were behind the slow initial response to the Tsunami catastrophe. FOI has found the somewhat surprising turning point.
 
At 10 o'clock Monday, December 27, 2004, a crisis meeting was called in the Swedish Ministry of foreign affairs. The main topic was how to upgrade the capacity of the switch board, which was blocked by some 90 calls per second due to the Tsunami catastrophe.

The Swedish Tsunami Commission later commissioned the National Defense Research Agency (FOI) to analyze what crucial factors and phenomena were behind the slow initial response to the crisis. FOI has found the turning point.

Sweden's efficient ambassador in Thailand, Jonas Hafstrm, hurried away and witnessed with his own eyes the destruction in Khao Lac and Phuket. He participated on telephone in the crisis meeting and spoke with the foreign minister Laila Freivalds in person. We are told that he, while crying, tried to explain the seriousness in the situation and that this emotional effort finally made "the coin fall down" at the foreign ministry.

The analysis of the FOI research team is important reading. The sequence of events is analyzed from three perspectives - psychological, organizational and agenda governed. The conclusion that "the Swedish system of crisis handling was remarkably slow during the first day of the tsunami catastrophe" seems to be something of an understatement.

The FOI report is in fact a confirmation of the conclusions in the first report from the Tsunami Commission. Chairman Johan Hirschfeldt put it this way in his presentation in December 2005: "The largest problem was the lacking of a functional crisis team at the government level".

 

The FOI analysis puts focus right. It is clear that the ministry of foreign affairs was responsible and not the prime minister's office. The campaign against this office and its head is very hard to understand. In fact, it was not until ambassador Hafstrm gave his eyewitness report that the foreign ministry called the prime minister and his office. Only then we hade a catastrophe on "Estonia scale".

The media hunt against first secretary Lars Danielsson - led by Lena Mellin, Aftonbladet, and Mikael Holmstrm, Svenska Dagbladet, among others - is without precedence. For almost two years media have - with hampered facts, leaks from commissions and anonymous sources - painted this civil servant in black.

It's time to sober up. Read the FOI report and think about the efforts of the Ministry of foreign affairs. That is where the responsibility was. We have to hear it for a crying ambassador who understood this.