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A map shows the area destroyed in Phuket's SuperCheap blaze

SuperCheap Blaze Reveals Phuket Tsunami Lessons Have Been Forgotten

Thursday, October 31, 2013
PHUKET: Better communication was required between different organisations on Phuket in a major disaster like the SuperCheap fire, a meeting heard today.

That lesson was actually learned on Phuket during the 2004 tsunami that devastated the island and the surrounding region, killing 5400 Thais, Burmese and tourists.

But the officials who were on Phuket at the time have moved on and the lesson of the need for disaster communication appears to have been forgotten.

It was difficult for the various organisations to function as a co-ordinated unit during the SuperCheap fire because their walkie-talkies and other means of communication were not designed to interact, officials were told today at the offices of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.

Vice-Governor Jamleran Tipayapongtada was delegated to seek answers to better communication in future.

People storing inflammable goods were also advised to get in touch with their local councils or fire stations so that firefighters know what kind of problems to expect in a blaze.

Governor Maitree Intrusud repeated that there had been no deaths in the blaze, and just a few minor injuries among people fleeing the flames.

The fire on October 16 was among the largest ever on the island but the iconic SuperCheap brand resumed operations quickly and renewed supply lines to its 44 Phuket outlets.

A large fresh market is also operating close to the razed store in Thepkasattri Road.

A map on the wall at the DDPM offices appears to show an outline of the SuperCheap store and possibly the area in the warehouse at the rear where the blaze broke out.

However, details have yet to be revealed by the forensic police investigating the blaze.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


One of the most important aspects in any disaster scenario is good radio/data communication between the various rescue organisations.

That means that BEFORE any disaster occurs, these organisations should ensure that their radio comms equipment can effectively communicate with that of other similar organisations, AND that such equipment interoperability is tested AND tested again in mock disaster situations.

It is hardly rocket-science is it?

Simon HS0ZIB - licenced radio amateur in Thailand, previous career as rocket-scientist (yes really!)

Posted by Simon Luttrell on October 31, 2013 16:32


In this instance, I think using the cell phone system would have been a better choice than
incompatible walkie talkies.

Posted by mikey on October 31, 2013 22:18


... using the cell phone system would have been a better choice than
incompatible walkie talkies.

In this instance, it might have been a better solution.

Use of incompatible communications equipment in emergency situations is of course, hardly unique to Thailand. The problem in Thailand is that the legal use of professional 'walkie-talkie' equipment is strictly controlled, and many volunteer rescue organisations (including the foreign TPVs), have to rely on using the 'red' walkie-talkies which can be legally used with few obstacles, but which are totally incompatible with the 'black' walkie-talkies that the police authorities use.

The problem can be resolved to some extent by police officers carrying both black and red hand-helds.

As a Tourist Police Officer working at the airport, I carried my licenced, ham radio hand-held, which also covered the police channels, as well as a red hand-held in case I needed to communicate on those channels. A far-from ideal solution, and happily no emergency situation arose which required use of these equipments.


Posted by Simon Luttrell on November 2, 2013 07:47


They had their emergency exercises and we were told all was ok... now we are told that a fundamental necessity fails. Communications between all necessary authorities is paramount, how could they not have achieved this. Someone, at DDPM, has been telling porkies and needs their a**** well and truly kicked.

Posted by DSI Watcher on November 3, 2013 18:22

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