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Tsunami anniversary 2008 in Khao Lak, on the police patrol boat

Phuket Andaman Tsunami Practice: August 21

Wednesday, August 12, 2009
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ALL SIX Andaman provinces know when the next tsunami is coming - at 10.45am on Friday, August 21.

That's when the next large-scale tsunami practice will test the warning system of towers along the beaches that were severely damaged on December 26, 2004.

With the fifth anniversary of the big wave drawing close, officials are keen to demonstrate Thailand's state of preparedness.

Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi, Ranong, Trang and Satun will hear the sirens sound (although there have been silences in the past due to stolen wiring) and watch mock rescues and evacuations.

Once again the main demonstration will be held in Patong on Phuket, even though thousands more people died in and around Khao Lak, in Phang Nga.

More tourists are on Phuket, and it's easier for Bangkok dignitaries and the media to reach, so once again it will gain the attention that perhaps Khao Lak has earned the hard way.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Tuerksuban will be in Patong for the demonstration, along with other VIPs.

Because the tsunami killed 5400 people from 40 different countries in Thailand, international interest remains strong.

And it will be the second tsunami drill within a month.

A seabed earthquake in the Indian Ocean led to an unplanned tsunami practice in the early morning hours of August 11.

Residents of the Phang Nga village of Nam Khem, where more that 800 people perished in 2004, decided to take no chances and evacuated their homes for higher ground.

Elsewhere along the coast, most people slept on, unaware that the earthquake had taken place (level one alert) or that local officials were on standby to begin evactuation (level two alert.)

The order to move people out (level three) never came because the earthquake did not generate a big wave.

In Nam Khem (salt water) they are less likely than many to forget the tsunami, or the need for constant vigilance.

But what if a real second tsunami, however unlikely, does come unexpectedly, in the middle of the night, with the siren warnings being blown out to sea, and no television or radio alerts?

A demonstration this month at a Phuket resort is designed to answer some of the lingering questions about the adequacy of Thailand's tsunami warning system.

On August 18 and 19, the regional Director of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, will be at the Movenpick Resort in Karon to demonstrate how resorts everywhere should prepare and react to a tsunami.

The high cost of buying warning equipment has put it beyond the reach of some individual resorts.

While the DDPM has suggested that as many as 10 resorts in specific locations band together to buy the equipment, there are still resorts that are underprepared for a second tsunami.

Although a second tsunami is unlikely, there is no guarantee one will never come. But what happens in an alert at 3am or 4am? Who wakes you up to run?

Guests planning to stay at beach resorts along the Andaman coast are advised to first ask their chosen resort what warning system is in place in the event of a second tsunami, especially at night.

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