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Opinions of Saturday, 6 February 2010

Columnist: Akumey-Affizie, Nunya

Earthquake hoax - an expensive joke

When the text message telling recipients that 'cosmic rays' from the planet Mars would hit Earth after midnight, and that people should switch off their mobile phones little did we know that it was all a hoax and an expensive prank been played on Ghanaians.
In February 2007, a Zimbabwean man caused a scare at the Sir Seretse Khama Airport in Botwana when he alleged that a morning flight from Botwana to Johannesburg was in danger. His malicious assertion attracted the Botwanan Anti-Bomb squad who found out later that it was all a hoax.
Callan Hinze was arrested and surprisingly released on condition that he should not go within 200 meters near the airport. He was also asked to surrender his travel documents to Sir Seretse Khama Airport police and must notify the police before leaving Botswana.In addition, he will report to the police every two weeks.
In July 2009, the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) received several inquiries from the media and the general public about a rumor circulating in emails and blogs that a major tsunami triggered by a solar eclipse on July 22nd 2009 will devastate the Southeast Asian region.
EOS affirms that, to date, scientists have not found any significant correlation between solar eclipses and earthquakes.
The question on the lips of everyone currently is that, would this expensive and dangerous hoax go uninvestigated or unpunished?
Would the radio stations that churned out the malicious text message be questioned?
Judging from the widespread nature of the rumor, one can only attribute it to the coincidence with the Haitian catastrophy.The chilling pictures emanating from Haiti was enough to send people fleeing their homes in the middle of the night.
My fickle mind also gravitated towards the flipside of this whole hoax. That’s, if it had been factual and true that there was an earthquake at that “ungodly” hour of Monday morning, were we prepared for it? Is NADMO abreast with techniques in handling earthquake disaster? Was it going to be a case of knee-ject reaction and fire- fighting approach to rescuing victims? Do we have Earthquake assembling points in our various communities where people could converge in the event of an earthquake?
Have the Earthquake prone zones been clearly demarcated and barricaded by the Geological survey department? And do people also know about these places so that they don’t build at such places?
Do we have a monitoring systems and mechanism in place to detect a possible earthquake?
Generally are we ready to handle natural disasters as a people? What would have happened if armed robbers had cashed in on this hoax and robbed people of their valuables? Could you imaging the massive chaos and looting that would have engulfed this country when this falsehood was been churned out? Your answers are as good as mine.
According to some views expressed at the public court of opinion, the hoax was a diversionary tactics by Government detractors to shift attention from the peaceful National delegate’s congress of the National Democratic congress in Tamale.
Whatever it is the fact still remains that, Ghanaians were taken on a fools ride and such pranks are too expensive.
Could you imagine the effect of this hoax on the level of productivity from that Monday through to Tuesday?
Work virtually grounded to a halt where staffs of very critical institutions engaged in lengthy conversations and discussions on what each person did in response to the news.
That definitely would have a negative toll on the economy.
My Final concern is with the Telecommunications networks service providers’ inability to track the source of the text message that raised the fake alarm. This clearly means that we can suffer this alarmist scenario again anytime without detection of the perpetrator.
Are we really safe? If a chip could be bought from the roadside at Zenith hotel in Takoradi and just get it activated by making a call then we are in deep trouble.
In my estimation, the National Security apparatus must institute vigorous investigations into the case and bring the masterminds behind it to book.
Beyond the investigation, the Government must wake up and equip the institutions responsible for the detection, monitoring, educations, prevention and rescue in the event of a Natural disaster.
Meanwhile, I slept outside for about two hours on receipt of the information and mosquitoes had a good meal of my body.
Never again should we be taken for a ride, the authorities must get to the bottom of this expensive hoax.
Share you comments and experiences.
God bless Ghana.

Author: Akumey-Affizie Nunya Cecil
brwncecil@yahoo.com