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30th June 2007 set for tsunami evacuation drills

Evacuation drills will be conducted in all tsunami-risk areas on Phuket island on 30th June, Phuket Vice Governor Tri Augkaradacha has announced.

The drills will be coordinated jointly by the National Disaster Warning Center (NDWC), the local office of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM-Phuket) and local administrative bodies where the exercises will take place.

The areas were listed as: Phuket City, Patong, Karon, Rawai, Chalong, Rassada, Sakoo, Mai Khao, Cherng Talay, Wichit, Pa Khlok and Kamala.

The provincial drills will be followed by a regional drill on July 25 to take place at 24 schools in the six Andaman coast provinces that are located in tsunami risk zones, V/Gov Tri said.

Patong Deputy Mayor Chairat Sukkaban welcomed the drills, describing as “very successful” two mock evacuations held in 2006 at a total cost of 500,000 baht.

The municipality has budgeted another 500,000 baht for evacuation drills this year, he said.

Apart from being a tsunami risk zone, Patong is also at risk of landslides, he said.

The Norwegian government has been conducting a study to identify risk areas and two seminars have been held on ways to prevent and mitigate damages from landslides, he added.

DDPM chief Aroon Kerdsom said tambon administration organizations (OrBorTor) responsible for risk areas were also well prepared for the drills following a May 9 meeting to discuss budgeting, scheduling and other related issues.

Both the June 30 and July 25 drills would begin with the sounding of the tsunami warning sirens, which will be activated remotely from the NDWC headquarters in Nonthaburi, he said.

The last scheduled testing of the sirens on April 7 was scrapped at the last minute by the NDWC, raising suspicions about whether the system’s satellite links were functioning properly and prompting one member of the Democrat party to demand an investigation.

NDWC Director Dr Smith Dharmasaroja responded by insisting that the towers were functioning properly and were “silently” tested on a daily basis.

V/Gov Tri said that in order ensure compliance, all OrBorTor participating in the drill would be required to submit reports and recorded images of the evacuations to the DDPM-Phuket within three days.

He said there were four means by which the public could be warned of an impending disaster:

• The media, including local and foreign television and radio stations, both public and private;

• Alerts sent out by the Amateur Radio Society of Thailand, which has members all around Thailand;

• Instant messages sent out to all local leaders and other subscribers via mobile phone networks;

• Tsunami warning towers in high-risk areas. There are currently 79 such towers in the six Andaman coast provinces and 19 in Phuket. These are capable of sounding both siren sounds and recorded alerts in five languages: Thai, Chinese, Japanese, German, and English. The alerts are audible within 1.5 kilometers of the towers, he said.

Article taken from the Phuket Gazette.
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Comment on tsunami drills

It's good to see that authorities are taking people's safety seriously enough to have these tsunami drills. Spread the word that they will take place so that people don't panic when they happen.

It's worrying to see that landslides are regarded as a problem in the area. This is as a result of large-scale deforestation of the hills that has happened in the name of development. As coastal land for tourist developments becomes more scarce and costly, further development occurs on the hill slopes which are destabilised by the removal of trees.

This process continues unabated despite the authorities identifying it as a problem. How long before a major landslide in Phuket makes the news?

Nick Upton, 29th May 2007 newsletter -
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