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Evacuated tourists watch and wait from the hills behind Kamala

UPDATE: Phuket Warnings Called Off After Two Large 'Quakes Rock the Region

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
UPDATE

All tsunami alerts were called off at 8.50pm after two large earthquakes off Indonesia revived memories of the killer 2004 tsunami and left authorities wondering whether some of the lessons from that disaster have been forgotten.

Original Report

PHUKET: A massive tsunami alert drove thousands from the coast of Phuket, along the Andaman and around the entire Indian Ocean rim today. At 6pm, there was still concern about aftershocks.

An earthquake of magnitude 8.6 ripped parts of Indonesia at 3.50pm but no big wave followed on Phuket. Disaster officials warned that if a tsunami had been generated, it would reach Phuket at 5.40pm.

But the time came and went without the tsunami arriving. On Phuket and in surrounding provinces, tourists and residents reacted, in many cases heading for the hills whether or not there was an official warning.

Reports came later of an aftershock measured at 8.1 at 5.14pm, meaning that the alert could not yet be considered over.

Indonesia's Geophysical Agency said the aftershock hit off the Sumatra province of Aceh. A new potential tsunami alert was issued.

It was a day when Phuket got the shakes in more ways that one. The 110 minutes between the initial earthquake and the forecast potential big wave gave plenty of time for the word to get around.

By 5.40pm, police and emergency officials were the only ones along the danger area on and near Patong beach. Hospitals and shopping centres on Phuket had been completely or partially evacuated.

Phuket International Airport, close to the coast, initially paused outgoing flights. Heightening concern led to a cessation of flights in and out of the airport and a full-scale evacuation.

All incoming Thai flights from Bangkok tonight have been cancelled. It is believed all flghts also ceased in and out of Krabi airport.

Phuket airport will reopen at 8am tomorrow, airport officials said tonight.

Today's 110 minutes of fear brought a sharp reminder of December 26, 2004, when the Indian Ocean tsunami killed 220,000 people around the region, the vast majority near Aceh in Indonesia, where today's 8.6 magnitude quake came.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was on Phuket last month for a Cabinet meeting, has called an emergency Cabinet meeting for 7.30pm.

Since the 2004 tsunami, many questions have been asked about the adequacy of warnings on Phuket and along the Andaman coast. Today's experiences did not allay all of those concerns.

If the alert had come 12 hours earlier or 12 hours later, in the middle of the night, the scenes on Phuket may have been more alarming.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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I can call into Phuket via skype, but mobile service in Phuket super difficult, as I hear. Good to see the authorities can do.

Posted by Lena on April 11, 2012 18:22

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According to the USGS there was also a 8.2 magnitude aftershock at 5.43pm Thai time.

Does anyone know where to hear English language updates on the situation ? So far PW seems to be the only one with any info whatsoever.

All I can say is that in Chalong there's no sign of either a Tsunami or earthquake and eveyone seems to go about their business as usual.

Posted by Steve C. on April 11, 2012 18:31

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That tsunami alert must remind the Thai administration that all illegal buildings and businesses in low lands areas (Beaches in particular)along the Andaman Coast must be dismantled the sooner the better.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on April 11, 2012 18:33

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(moderated)

Posted by Laurie Howells on April 11, 2012 18:48

Editor Comment:

You're not a jerk, Laurie, you're a knee-jerk. Consider yourself banned from ever reading Phuketwan again.

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My 10 storey building in Nakhon Sri Thammarat swayed like it had turned into jelly. I was talking to a friend in Australia on skype and said the building was moving. He asked if I had be indulging in too much of the local vegetation. Most people at ground level didn't seem to feel anything.

Posted by logbags on April 11, 2012 18:58

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Was at jungceylon food centre at basement having lunch at 4pm. All staff just left without informing anyone. Only people left in the food centre were tourist who were still oblivious of what's happened. there was no announcement made!! This is so disappointing for such a big mall!!!

Posted by Edwin on April 11, 2012 18:59

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Just went to Home Pro in Chalong, only to find out it has been evacuated. The main street seemed unusually quiet too.

Posted by Steve C. on April 11, 2012 19:07

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I hope everything will be ok soon.

Posted by Darek on April 11, 2012 19:11

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Whistleblower, you never miss an opportunity to gas on about your pet grievances - even in the face of a disaster. How about turning your attention towards looking after your employees, most of whom have grievances about your abysmal wages. Sorry, but there you are... it's the truth. Put your own house in order, then criticize others.

Posted by sam W on April 11, 2012 20:24

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More disturbing during this was the cell phone network overload. SMS msgs giving warning were backed up and 10-20 retries were needed to complete a call. This could/should be fixed by the govt. The live coverage of cremation slowed news warnings

Posted by bill gates on April 12, 2012 08:36

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ED..in the end, I was proven right, I await your apologee, have you ever heard of the saying 'the boy who cried wolf', understand it, and remember what could happen, if the warning system is sounded too often, with no tsunami occurring.

Posted by Laurie Howells on April 12, 2012 08:54

Editor Comment:

You are always going to be right, Laurie, because you make your pronouncements hours after it matters. Get one thing straight: this is not about you. Add something constructive and timely and we'll all be the wiser. Until then, please follow your advice about sirens.

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Lena, bill gates and anyone else who is interested, telephone systems are not designed for HIGH call rates, eg emergencies, Christmas day and in western countries mother day, it is economically too expensive, to provide a circuit for every phone, from memory networks work on about 30%, due to the fact that not every phone is in use 100% of the time, this is why you had trouble making and receiving calls, an interesting fact, well, in Australia, if there is a higher percentage of women, in an area, compared to men, more circuits are provided, sorry ladies, you talk much longer on the phone...oh ED, I believe my original post was sent before 5:40pm.

Posted by Laurie Howells on April 12, 2012 09:52

Editor Comment:

Timed here at 6.02pm, and totally irrelevant by then. As it happens, it was perfectly logical to have a small tsunami wave and no warnings. No point, though, in adding to the confusion of the moment.


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