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A faded tsunami sign, one of scores disappearing fast on Phuket

Next Phuket Tsunami a Case of When, Not If, Say Scientists

Saturday, December 14, 2013
PHUKET: People on Phuket should be prepared for the next tsunami, according to scientists who have settled the debate about whether another big wave will follow the one that smashed the region in 2004.

Nine years on, researchers have discovered a cave on the Indonesian island of Sumatra that provides a ''stunning'' record of Indian Ocean tsunamis over thousands of years.

It's only a matter of ''when'' not ''if '' another tsunami strikes, they say.

Authorities on Phuket are notoriously lax at allowing awareness of the potential for a tsunami to dim with time. Most evacuation signs on Phuket are being allowed to fade.

Now, the scientific results indicate, resort managements and local Phuket officials would be wise to always advise guests to be prepared for the next big wave.

They say layers of tsunami-borne sediments found in the cave in northwest Sumatra suggest the biggest destructive waves do not occur at set intervals - meaning communities in the area should be ready at all times for a tsunami.

''It's something that communities need to know,'' research team leader Charles Rubin said, adding that the team wanted to ''promote safety of coastal communities''.

More than 240,000 people were killed around the Indian Ocean in the December 26, 2004 tsunami, including 5400 tourists and residents in Thailand.

Professor Rubin and other researchers from a Singapore institute were working with scientists from an Indonesian university when they discovered the cave, south of Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province.

Inside the cave the researchers found layers of sandy sediment, which had been washed in by tsunamis thousands of years previously, Mr Rubin said.

The layers, which contained small fossils from the seabed, were well-preserved and separated by droppings deposited by bats in the cave, he added.

''This is a beautiful, stunning record of tsunamis that you just don't have very often,'' Mr Rubin said.

Only huge tsunamis and storm surges can get into the cave, which has a raised entrance. Afterwards the sediment is protected inside from erosion by wind or water.

Mr Rubin said the scientists dated the layers and believe they show that between 2800 and 3300 years ago, some four to five tsunamis battered the area.

Before the 2004 tsunami, it had been hundreds of years since such a huge destructive wave had hit Aceh, the scientist said.

But he said the new discovery suggests that tsunamis are not evenly spaced through time, which provoke those involved in policy and planning in the region to greater preparedness.

Two tsunami alarms in 2012 that were not part of a planned drill illustrated that little preparation had gone into thinking about evacuations and other requirements on Phuket.

Memorial ceremonies are held on Phuket and in Krabi and Phang Nga each December 26.

The Phuket tsunami memorial wall at the north of the island and a cemetery in Phang Nga where 380 unidentified tsunami victims are buried are usually cleared of weeds once a year, just in time for the anniversary.

A two-day Phuket region coastal safety summit is scheduled for January at the Royal Phuket Marina.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


I would think there is more chance of being struck down by the proverbial bus (or tuk-tuk on Phuket) than being wiped out by another tsunami. At least one gets audible warnings of an approaching tsunami, but with the bus (tuk-tuk) you get no warning.

Posted by Pete on December 14, 2013 08:24


Interesting in its research and history content, but hey, even I predicted another tsunami, I am as sure of this as I am as sure that the sun will rise tomorrow, I can, with spending any time or money, predict there will be another earthquake. I understand why people believe there should be warnings about tsunamis, but why not also earthquakes, the possibility of Indian rocket boosters falling from the sky. If we look at history all of us and maybe our kids and their kids could all have grown old and died before the next tsunami, with the passing of time the 2004 tsunami will fade into history along with all warnings, just like the sign in the photo above.

Posted by Laurie Howells on December 14, 2013 08:38


The evacuation route sign at the entrance to Sirinart Park in Layan, (on Soi 2) points the way southeast along route 4018 which is at sea level for about 3 kilometers, whereas it should point north, where the land rises appreciably within 200 meters.

Posted by The Night Mare on December 14, 2013 12:02


@ The Night Mare:
When I lived in Kamala there were three evacuation signs along Kamala beach pointing to the sea; it was around five weeks before they were corrected.

Posted by Pete on December 14, 2013 12:50


To bad the scientists cannot predict earthquakes or tsunamis. There will be another tsunami for sure but for today let's hope that this will occur in the far future. Nevertheless people living in those areas should get regular drills so they know how to react if it happens again.

Posted by sandman on December 14, 2013 16:59


This scientist says its a case of when not if when waiting for the next drowning in front of the karon stadium..... this scientist predicts at least another 1 or 2 before 2014

Posted by hitomi on December 15, 2013 01:40

Sunday May 27, 2018
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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