Subject: LUSA: Authorities seeking those behind tsunami rumor panic

East Timor: Authorities seeking those behind tsunami rumor panic

Dili, Jan. 4 (Lusa) - East Timorese officials stepped up investigations Tuesday to determine who was behind the wave of tsunami rumors that panicked the capital, leaving many people injured and scores of homes and shops sacked after tens of thousands fled Dili overnight Sunday.

President Xanana Gusmao appealed to the public to aid police in identifying and detaining those responsible for launching the rumors that sent about half the capital's population fleeing to neighboring mountains.

Hundreds of frightened Dili residents abandoned the coastal capital for a second time Monday night, despite radio alerts from the government that the tsunami rumors were baseless and likely started by criminal elements intent on looting.

Hospital officials told Lusa that 35 people, including five children, were injured in Sunday's panicked flight from the city.

The chaos also caused 24 premature births, including eight miscarriages, they said.

Despite tightened security precautions overnight Sunday, police reported a wave of burglaries, with people returning to Dili Monday to find homes, shops and warehouses looted.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri cautioned his nervous people not to heed rumors, pledging that in the event of a natural disaster threat it would be the government that would issue alerts.


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