RUMOURMONGERS caused a spike in the panic across Jamaica and the diaspora on Monday as they spread reports that the 5.6-magnitude earthquake that struck just before 11:00 am had devastated the island.
Claims that a silo at a major manufacturer had collapsed, a hospital was on fire, and buildings had caved in at a major university were quickly proven to be false, but not before they added more pressure on the already overworked Jamaica Fire Brigade and the police.
“We still had Jamaicans making prank calls to the Jamaica Fire Brigade relating to the earthquake. We would have reports of building collapsed on Half-Way-Tree Road and when we turned up it was false and numerous other calls around the Corporate Area and when we turned up they turned out to be prank,” head of the Jamaica Fire Brigade Stewart Beckford told a media conference at the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday evening.
“I want to use this medium to ask members of the public to please desist from the practice of making false calls. What it does is to tie up resources that are needed elsewhere and it makes our job that more difficult,” added Beckford.
He was supported by Prime Minister Andrew Holness who hosted the media briefing and underscored the damage of the rumors.
“Misinformation is indeed a part of our society. Some people might think it is funny, it is a prank, some people might think it is entertainment, but it has a real impact on how it misdirects our resources; resources that could have been used to give service to people who are in need end up being misdirected because we can’t take a chance,” said Holness.
“And you would have seen on social media several images that are not true. We have seen items circulating that infrastructure is damaged, a plant is damaged, or a critical infrastructure is on fire when that is not the case,” added Holness as he argued that the late afternoon press conference was designed to provide the public with the correct information.