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What's left after an Andaman  tsunami: vigilance is the key to survival

Phuket's Tsunami Drills a Timely Precaution

Wednesday, December 22, 2010
News Analysis

THE TSUNAMI forecast by fortune-tellers is unlikely to strike Phuket this high season or any other time. But the only way to combat the predictions of soothsayers is to be proactively prepared for another tsunami.

This applies especially to resorts along Phuket's west coast and the Andaman. A foolproof system and constant reassurance is the only way to stave off superstition and suspicion.

Thailand's best-regarded tsunami predictor, Dr Smith Dharmasaroja, the former director of the National Disaster Warning Center, told Phuketwan yesterday that the sole surefire protection against another tsunami (and fortune tellers) is eternal vigilance.

This time last year, Phuketwan asked the GM of a five-star resort that was devastated by the 2004 tsunami what provisions the resort had made for a second tsunami disaster.

''Oh,'' he said. ''We have regular fire drills.'' We were too polite to make the obvious point: that a fire in a resort can be contained while guests are evacuated, but a tsunami is a much more vast and instant occupancy rate killer.

All along the Andaman coast, resort managements have changed since the 2004 tsunami, and so have local administrators. The potential for another tsunami has to retain a prominent place in the minds of all newcomers.

Sunday marks the tsunami's sixth anniversary, and memories and experience have dimmed over that time.

Sensibly, the Thai authorities have reacted to a devastating tsunami in Indonesia earlier this year in which the victims had no warning. For the first time, a tsunami drill will be held in the middle of Phuket's high season, this coming Friday.

And for the first time, Phuket recently held a night tsunami evacuation drill. But drills can only offer practice in dealing with the aftermath of a disaster.

As long as Phuket remains close to an area where earthquakes cause tsunamis, adequate preventative measures are required, along with reassurances that visitors will be able to escape.

At another five-star resort earlier this year, we found the guide for guests included several pages on what to do in case of an earthquake. There was one paragraph on what to do in a tsunami.

Resort managers will all say that the safety and security of their guests is of paramount importance. But in many cases, concern about causing unnecessary alarm leads to a ''keep quiet and pray nothing ever happens'' approach.

The threat of a second tsunami is not going away. There will be more in the region, and there will be more fortune tellers making foolish predictions.

It's up to resort managements to take a lead from the example of Phuket's disaster warning and management experts and provide guests with an answer to the unspoken but ever-present question: ''If a tsunami comes between 2am and 6am when everybody is asleep, who will wake me up?''

Those who need convincing should go to the village of Nam Khem, north of Phuket, for the commemorative event on Sunday, December 26. Ask the families there: they will tell you. They will be mourning 800 relatives and friends.

The tsunami must never be forgotten. Nor should the need for eternal vigilance.

About 5400 people died on Phuket and along the Andaman coast in the 2004 tsunami. About half were Thais and half were tourists from 40 countries. About 220,000 people perished around the Indian Ocean.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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"THE TSUNAMI forecast by fortune-tellers is unlikely to strike Phuket this high season or any other time."
...Unlikely???....maybe....and yes it can happen at any time....It did 6 years ago if you recall.

Posted by sky on December 22, 2010 14:40

Editor Comment:

Er . . . yes. I recall.
Have you seen something in your crystal ball?

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"As long as Phuket remains close to an area where earthquakes cause tsunamis, adequate preventative measures are required"

could you suggest a couple of measures for preventing tsunamis??

Posted by another steve on December 22, 2010 14:48

Editor Comment:

Poorly phrased. ''Preventing a tsunami disaster'' is what was meant.

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I guess that nobody here got the tsunami warning from Tsunami watch last night at 19:39. Areas told to look out were Philippines and Indonesia, from the Bonin Islands near Japan. The earthquake was a 7.4 shaker.
So do not drop your vigilance for one second.
Not a case now of IF but When.

Posted by Grahamm on December 22, 2010 21:07

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I subscribe to tsunami-alarm.com and receive tsunami warnings via SMS within 10-20 mins of any quake which has the potential to cause a tsunami. Waves from a quake in the Sunda trench take over an hour to reach Phuket, allowing plenty of time to evacuate if necessary. For example, I received a warning on my phone at 12.37am yesterday morning for the Bodin Islands quake in Japan, which occurred at 12.19am. Whilst this can be a little annoying when the quake is not one which affects Phuket, it's nice to know the warning system does work effectively and will let me know if there is ever a major quake near Phuket. Maybe the fortune tellers out there should splash out on a subscription?

Posted by kel on December 23, 2010 07:43


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