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Update: Phuket Tsunami Alert Triggers False Panic

Update: Phuket Tsunami Alert Triggers False Panic

Friday, November 5, 2010
UPDATE

Thailand's tsunami warning buoy, which broke free earlier this year in mysterious circumstances, is to be returned after maintenance to its original anchored position on December 12, Thai media reports.

Original Report

TSUNAMI warning towers on Phuket beaches at Kamala and Nai Yang and in Phang Nga at Khao Lak and Bang Maruan sounded unexpectedly today, sending tourists and residents fleeing to higher ground in panic.

There was screaming and yelling, according to witnesses. Hundreds of students fled schools close to the coast. Shopkeepers, police and officials fled, too.

When Phuketwan called the National Disaster Warning Centre about 11.30am, an hour after the false alarm, a spokesperson said: ''We know nothing about it. Can we call you back?''

National director Somsak Choasuwan did call back soon after, asking Phuketwan for information.

Talk of the tsunami warning spread rapidly, with parents rushing to pick up their children from coast schools. However, the lifeguards at Nai Yang said they had heard nothing and were surprised to learn about the alarm among locals.

A tsunami in Indonesia that killed hundreds without warning last week has alarmed many people in other parts of the Indian Ocean region.

Phuket Governor Tree Ackaradecha said that it was fortunate the false alarm sounded in the daytime, not during the night, when the danger to people fleeing would have been greater. He said it was important for people to be certain when an alarm was real.

''The Bangkok authorities need to send someone to Phuket and Phang Nga quickly,'' he said. ''It's not something we have any control over.''

While those who died last week in Indonesia were mostly very close to the epicentre of the undersea earthquake that triggered the localised three-metre wave, people have been led to expect a warning.

Dissatisfaction about Thailand's Andaman coast tsunami alert system became more widespread earlier this year with a practice drill on Phuket and at other key points in the provinces that were struck by the big wave in 2004.

The problem then was that some of the towers failed to sound, or sounded after the drill had finished.

About 220,000 people perished in the December 26, 2004 tsunami, including 5400 residents, tourists and Burmese laborers along Thailand's Andaman coast.
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Why was there a false alarm? Was it a hoax? Why not on all beaches? Why the Governor need people from Bangkok, what is out of his reach? Isn't there a signal for de-alarm or alarm over?

Posted by Lena on November 5, 2010 15:23

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This Tsunami warning system is obsolete, costly and faulty. Surely a better idea would be to make the phone companies send out Tsunami warning messages to those phones that are in the areas at risk. They send me pointless advertisements 3-4 times a day that are in Thai. Don't think this is costing them too much.

Posted by Tom on November 5, 2010 19:09

Editor Comment:

Sure, but how does every tourist get a Thai telephone in a hurry?

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sadly nothing has changed. if there is ever another Tsunami, god only know what will happen

Posted by lord Jim on November 5, 2010 21:18

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telephone is not bad idea even tourist have to be on Thai Network

all evacuations as well are planned based on waves coming from the south as before. Obviously any wave would be coming inshore but if wave came from different direction would have a different flow

Posted by michael on November 5, 2010 21:32

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I've said it before, but I'll say it again - The tsunami alarm system (tsunami-alarm.com) is the only reliable source of tsunami info. It's not free, but it depends how serious you are about wanting reliable tsunami info. I live in Kamala, so I want to know the facts if there is a tsunami alert. I would never rely on the "authorities" to inform me.

Posted by kel on November 6, 2010 09:36

Editor Comment:

What would you do, Kel, if by chance the power failed just before a tsunami?

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How can the alarms work without power? Even with power this system does not work.
Telephone alert is a good idea, there will always be somebody around, who have a Thai telephone. However the phone system will be overloaded within a few minutes.

Posted by Hotel owner in Patong on November 6, 2010 12:59

Editor Comment:

It's generally accepted that two systems are required for an adequate disaster warning system. Daytime, no problems: radio and television will warn, provided there's sufficient time. At night, say 3am or 4am? That's anyone's guess.

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Editor Comment:

What would you do, Kel, if by chance the power failed just before a tsunami?

Dear Ed,

It is an SMS based alert system. My phone has a battery. I'm sure yours does, too.

Posted by Kel on November 8, 2010 04:07

Editor Comment:

I thought it came off an Internet-based service. Isn't that reliant on electricity at some point in the chain?

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@Editor,
The tourists wouldn't need a mobile as there are always hordes of locals on every beach renting chairs, etc. In this system everyone would get the message at the same time and this would create a sense of panic and everyone would be alerted. It requires no (or very little) cost to the government and no maintenance. They do this in the Philippines with Typhoons.

Posted by Tom on November 9, 2010 08:24

Editor Comment:

What about the middle of the night, when the tourist is in bed?

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@ED & hotel owner,
SMS based is the best and cheapest however you would still have to rely on the efficiency of the government relaying those messages. And yes Phone network overload could be an issue however with cell info display those SMS can be sent selectively to those Phones at the areas of risk, ie not the whole of Thailand. @ED keep up the good work and comments!

Posted by Tom on November 9, 2010 08:29

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Editor Comment:

I thought it came off an Internet-based service. Isn't that reliant on electricity at some point in the chain?

Dear Ed,
The service is a global one, provided from Germany I believe. Have a look at the website where all your questions should be answered. Thanks

Posted by kel on November 9, 2010 15:52


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