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Tonight's ceremony on Patong beach, with candles to remember the dead

Tsunami Mysteries Allow Superstitions to Grow

Sunday, December 26, 2010
News Analysis

THE TSUNAMI of December 26, 2004, ripped through the coastal buildings of Phuket and the Andaman, depositing sand in the top pocket of a man's suit found hanging days later, in a third-floor room closet.

Like it or not, Phuket and the Andaman remain in a tsunami zone. And this year's sixth anniversary has finally brought widespread acceptance that tsunami preparedness should be perpetual, and that there will be no point at which the potential for a second disaster can be ignored.

The national disaster authorities have been quick to highlight the placement of two new warning buoys off the coast. Local firemen, relief organisations and hospitals regularly show their preparedness in drills.

But the resorts? The resorts, the vital link in between the offshore warnings and escape for tourists on Phuket and the Andaman coast, stay silent.

If any resorts do have a thorough plan to ensure their guests escape, they continue to keep it to themselves. Ignorance, it seems, is viewed as bliss.

About half the 5400 who died in Thailand in 2004 were tourists.

Yet the resorts - even those that have probably done the hard work and are properly prepared - stay silent.

If there is an environment where the predictions of fortunetellers flourish, it's where there are gaps in transparency.

Six years on from the tsunami, the national government has done its job. From the drills that have happened this year for the first time in the tourism high season, it appears that the local authorities have, too.

But the resorts? Well, we just don't know. Resort managers are not saying anything in public. They never have.

When there was a tsunami scare earlier this year, some resort managements in Patong took the precaution of evacuating their guests. Others did not.

Disaster experts said that the resorts that evacuated guests or led them higher to safety did the right thing. The others? Well, they were not wrong: fortunately, there was no second tsunami.

But one can't help wondering . . .

Perhaps before the seventh anniversary of the 2004 tsunami, some resorts will step forward to explain what precautions they have taken, and why guests can sleep especially soundly in their beds between the hours of 1am and 6am.

And perhaps then, even the fortunetellers will rest easy.
Phuketwan's Tsunami Coverage

The Tsunami: Week One Recalled
What was it like in that first week after the tsunami? Here one Phuket resident relates the story as it was reported in other places. This article has never appeared in print on Phuket.
The Tsunami: Week One Recalled

The Tsunami Toll One Year Later
The toll of the Indian Ocean tsunami is still misreported because of discrepancies that Phuketwan reporters discovered 12 months after the event. Here's what they wrote in 2005.
The Tsunami Toll One Year Later

Bodywork: How Tsunami Victims Reclaimed Names
The work by international police created the greatest forensic detective saga in history. Here is a report from the first 100 days.
Bodywork: How Tsunami Victims Reclaimed Names

Water and Fire: A Tsunami Reunion
The poorest unidentified victims of the tsunami in Thailand are the ones who still have yet to be reunited with relatives. Here from 2007 is a report of one such reunion.
Water and Fire: A Tsunami Reunion

'Resorts to Blame' for Tsunami Warning Failures
The lessons of the 2004 tsunami have not been learned. And for the first time, the reliability of the big wave warning system is being questioned. An adequate answer is essential.
'Resorts to Blame' for Tsunami Warning Failures

Comments

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Well actually resorts do have tsunami drills except that they are conducted in-house and not publicised on national papers.
Every half a year we would conduct a drill and invite guests to join us. A letter would be sent to the rooms informing of the drill and what exactly would happen, what the alarm would sound like and what they should do next.
Any guest requesting for hotel procedures on tsunami or fire evacuation will be given full details.
It's not a case where we hoteliers purposely keep silent because we don't want to scare guests off, but to constantly be in their face about tsunami proceedings is just going to bring out their paranoia.

Every hotel will be audited by the level of preparedness be it a fire evacuation plan - do we have enough extinguishers, enough personnel trained in emergency response etc. Similarly, we have added in tsunami evacuation into our audits, do we clearly indicated the path of evacuation etc.

To say that we are silent because we didn't put our drills in the paper would be rather unfair. Do we also have to report to the media on our emergency response procedures, too?

Posted by May on December 27, 2010 11:44

Editor Comment:

If you want to overcome the forecasts generated by fortune tellers, a little more openness might be effective. Are you vouching for all Phuket and Andaman resorts? Who exactly will wake me at 4am if I happen to be asleep in your resort when a second big wave comes? How will he or she know there is a tsunami on the way? Everyone who comes to Phuket needs to know they are holidaying in a tsunami zone, yet their safety is assured. The paranoia, it seems to me, is in the minds of hotel managements. Not much point in being prepared and not telling anybody. Everybody else is public about preparations. Only resorts keep their activities secret. If the process is secret, how can everybody else avoid paranoia?


Monday July 6, 2020
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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