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Officials inspect Phuket's biggest dam today and rule it undamaged

After the Phuket Quakes: Dam Declared Safe But Phuket Tourism Cracks

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
PHUKET: Authorities checked Phuket's Bang Niew Dam for cracks today as the number of houses damaged by yesterday's Phuket-centred earthquake rose from 11 to 34, with two considered to be verging on uninhabitable.

The twin major earthquakes and tsunami scare on Wednesday combined with a second impromptu evacuation of Phuket's west coast yesterday have inevitably brought cancellations of bookings from some tourists.

Although the two-hour warning on Wednesday gave police time to help evacuate residents and tourists from the Andaman coast and Phuket to the hills, information was hard to come by.

Phuket opposition MP Raewat Areerob called today for the national government to improve the speed and quality of information: ''People were not being told what's happening fast enough.''

Thunderstorms cracked across Phuket this afternoon in a vivid reminder of the sound made by yesterday's surprise 4.3 magnitude quake as Department of Mineral Resources Director of Geology Suwit Kosuwan, from Bangkok, inspected Phuket's main dam.

With him were local officials from around the Srisoonthorn district with MP Raewat and Phuket Vice Governor Phuket Vice Governor Somkiet Sangkaosutthirak.

The 30-metre dam's 860-metre long wall appeared to be showing no signs of damage but checks will continue.

Aftershocks from the Phuket earthquake continued today at irregular intervals, too small to cause more damage but felt by people close to the epicentre.

Officials could not say with precise accuracy where the epicentre was but they believe it was close to Soi Bangkam in Srisoonthorn Moo 2.

By mid-morning, 34 house owners had listed their properties as damaged by yesterday's 4.3 magnitude quake, which came at 4.44pm.

It was a first for Phuket. Nobody could recall an earthquake with its epicentre on Phuket in modern times.

The novelty brought a call from Phuket Chamber of Commerce Secretary-General Dr Sirichai Silpa-Ar-Cha to tighten the building code on all construction of any height.

He also aims to raise the issue of the downed mobile telephone networks that made communication difficult on Wednesday. Services proved a little more robust yesterday.

Generally, the earthquakes five days apart have inevitably had an unsettling effect across the tourist industry, particularly visitors who had to evacuate not once but twice in the space of five days.

One Phuketwan reader said on Facebook: "Just cost more then the whole holiday to get home. I loved Thailand but when that happened it changed everything."

It's a wakeup call to local authorities to make sure they and resort managers know what to do in every crisis. However, Hawaii had two tsunamis in the space of 14 years yet continues to attract millions of tourists every year.

Early estimates put the number of people abandoning their holidays at six percent with another four percent cancelling planned holidays. These figures may prove to be conservative, judging by comments made by some tourists.

While the latest incidents have been alarming, Phuket retains plenty of appeal to tourists. Greater emphasis on safety and security will be needed from now on to encourage tourists to keep coming back.

Many of the issues raised by the incidents are likely to be raised by officials at meetings with Phuket Governor Tri Augkaradacha and other officials over the next few days.

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"..two considered to be verging on uninhabitable." Are you sure the 'Authorities' have got this right? There's about 2 to 300 uninhabitable shacks in Chalong alone.

Posted by Jon on April 17, 2012 17:40

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Im going to phuket tomorrow? How safe is it now? Im getting really scared

Posted by Anonymous on April 17, 2012 18:22

Editor Comment:

No need to be scared. Phuket is as safe as it can be. No cause for alarm. People will be told in good time if there's another earthquake, which seems unlikely given that there have been two evacuations in the past week.

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Thank you for keeping Phuket beautiful! I'm coming in 2 weeks and nothing, not even this quake will stop me. Its unlikely to happen again so soon, and I'm not gong to go through life worrying about what might happen. I'm from London after all.

Posted by Jamie Dudderidge on April 17, 2012 22:43

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Thanks for the news as I am working in W.Africa. It was not significant enough to make international news ... but important to me as some of my family are holidying in Phuket. I called them & whilst they felt the quake & after shocks, stated there was nothing to worry about. So no need for the scaremongers to add to Phuket's woes.

Posted by Logic on April 17, 2012 23:32

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im going back to patong in 5 weeks, no cancelation for me, not going to worry about a tsunami. life is one big risk, love thailand and phuket and will always go back each year.

Posted by Darren walker on April 18, 2012 00:51

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Are you sure they will be told in good time..
what about the PM of Thailand going on national TV at 7.30 pm, an hour after the Disater center had given the all clear...

Posted by johndev on April 18, 2012 05:03

Editor Comment:

It was actually 30 minutes. The show was taped at 7.30pm and screened at 8.30pm. The all-clear came about 8pm.

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we are heading there [Phuket] saturday week so looking forward to it we will just make sure we know exactly what the evacuation proceedures are its NOT going to stop us from enjoying such a wonderful place.

Posted by sue on April 18, 2012 09:19

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ED - "No need to be scared. Phuket is as safe as it can be. No cause for alarm. People will be told in good time if there's another earthquake"

If this is true - Phuket is the first place on earth to have this early earthquake warning system!!! I'm I right ED?

Posted by Retired roadworker on April 18, 2012 12:46

Editor Comment:

Like many people who prefer to read what they think, rather than what we write, you live in your own confused world, roadworker. We'd prefer not to join you there.

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Being told in good time depends where on Phuket you happen to be, as was demonstrated vividly in the past few days.

A significant number of warning towers did not sound any alarm, no official English language information was available during that time and as even reported in PW, general confusion would be a more accurate description.

I don't think one should be scared but a healthy level of concern and suspicion about the ability of local authorities to handle such emergencies would be advisable.

Posted by Steve C. on April 18, 2012 13:35

Editor Comment:

Warning towers should sound in an evacuation, not in a ''tsunami watch,'' which is the stage before an evacuation. Every person in the tsunami hazard zone on Phuket - tourists and residents - needs to know and understand the plan. Those closest to the beach should be warned first, and if necessary evacuated first.

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@ Ed

Yes, I agree. However it is my understanding that immediately after the big earthquake an official evacuation was indeed ordered, yet most towers remained silent.

The problem is that a person cannot know if it's a tsunami watch or evacuation unless that information is communicated in one way or another.

I was under the impression that the warning towers were initially set up to deliver several different types of messages, not just a warning siren.

I believe they would be the most effective way to convey such critical information but the lack of maintenance has rendered them all but useless. This negligence is what I find disturbing.

The virtual collapse of the mobile phone networks shows that SMS is not a reliable way to warn people either.

I got my NDWC warning in Thai over AIS about 1hr after the evacuation order was cancelled. Had a tsunami actually hit, it would not have been of any use to anyone.

People should not be scared or overreact but I think it is right to demand due diligence from the authorities in such critical safety matters.

Posted by Steve C. on April 18, 2012 14:20

Editor Comment:

If there's a strong storm blowing the sound from the towers out to sea, their sirens would be pointless at 3am. They are really only useful in small village communities or in daylight on the popular tourist beaches. The towers were the first reaction of authorities post-tsunami when it was easy to say ''Look at the protection now.'' A more considered approach was needed then and is needed now.

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If mosques can have sound systems that carry all over their neighbourhood, then why cannot the authorities have some similar system covering all built up areas? Maybe they should ask the mosques to participate in such a scheme!

Posted by Logic on April 19, 2012 18:05


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