PHUKET: Sea gypsies from Rawai in southern Phuket fled to higher ground after the third and strongest earthquake yet rocked the Thai holiday island early today.
Quake No.3 rippled across the Andaman region at 12.31am, the third shake within 24 hours. Initially thought to be magnitude 4.3, seismologists later upgraded the quake to 4.7 - stronger than both of yesterday's quakes.
The movement was also felt in neighboring Phang Nga and Krabi provinces, including Phi Phi island, where tourists and residents are also reported to have run for the hills amid rumbles today.
The 4.7 tremor early on Thursday followed a 4.6 magnitude quake at 4.18am Wednesday and a 3.2 magnitude quake at 12.25pm.
It came at a depth of eight kilometres, said seismologists. They located it at 7.8N longitude latitude 98.52E.
Phuket Governor Nisit Jansomwong announced on Wednesday afternoon that there had been no damage from the first two quakes earlier in the day.
The third quake leaves Phuket and the region jittery.
Three quakes in succession have caused alarm, although experts say the fault where the tremors are being triggered is not considered likely to produce a devastating earthquake.
No tremor in the Phuket region is likely to be recorded above magnitude 5.0, when shakes become menacing, say the experts.
Larger danger lies outside the immediate region. The devastating 2004 tsunami triggered havoc and 220,000 deaths around the Indian Ocean rim.
Officials in Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi are expected to go to great lengths to reassure residents and tourists that there is no need for concern.
However, with the ''Tsunami Evacuation'' signs all faded or souvenired, there is no indication that the notion of being constantly alert for the next big one is recognised and appreciated by Phuket officials.
Further north in Phang Nga, where most of the 5400 tourists and residents perished in Thailand in 2004, preparations and the need for constant readiness are much better understood.