Wednesday, 11 April 2012

panic in Indonesia?

As I write this, reports are still coming in about today's earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, but it seems that mercifully a catastrophic tsunami like the one seen in December 2004, has so far been avoided.

Nevertheless, yet again the word 'panic' is being used by journalists to describe people's behaviour without properly considering what's going on. In the following video clip shown by the BBC (, the terms 'fear' and 'panic' are used in the voice-over.

However, from a quick look through the clip I saw the following actions;

1) A woman is on the phone (presumably contacting friends or loved ones), while her visibly distressed companion holds onto her for comfort

2) Police and soldiers are directing traffic, and helping people cross the road. Traffic seems busy, but people are following directions and no-one seems to be rushing around or getting in each others' way
3) Mothers are sitting on the ground comforting their kids

4) People are sitting on the floor of a mosque, either praying or comforting each other

All these actions show to me that social bonds have not broken down, and people seem to be acting in ordered and even pro-social ways- not the selfish, irrational, or anti-social behaviour that descriptions of 'panic' would imply. Aceh in Sumatra sufferred around 170,000 deaths in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, so it's not surprising that when people heard a tsunami alert that they may have been scared and would wish to leave low-lying areas and seek the safety of higher ground, but I can see nothing in this clip that suggests people are panicking. Instead they are behaving in sensible and logical ways to escape danger from what is a credible and possibly imminent threat.

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