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Patong tsunami warning system by end of April

Dr Smith Thammasaroj, the chief of the investigation into the government’s handling of the December 26 tsunami disaster, has announced that three tsunami warning towers will be operational in Patong by the end of April. Speaking at The Metropole hotel after a meeting with Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Deputy Chairman, Juthaporn Rerngronasa, TAT Region 4 Chief Suwalai Pinpradab and Phuket Tourist Association President Pattanapong Aikwanich, Dr Smith said, "We must know when tsunamis are going to strike and be able to warn tourists. We must have safe areas where people can run to. An earthquake measuring more than 7.5 on the Richter scale is likely to cause a tsunami, and everyone must be prepared before it strikes."

The towers will be more than 15 meters tall, made of steel-reinforced concrete, solar-powered, placed two kilometers apart and each one will be audible up to a kilometer away. "Warnings will be in six languages, most probably Thai, English, German, French, Chinese and Japanese," said Dr Smith. The three towers in Patong will be part of a natural disaster warning system to be set up in risk areas around the country and coordinated through the National Disaster Warning Center (NDWC) in Bangkok. "Some 45 warning towers will be set up in the six tsunami-affected provinces within six to 12 months," said Dr Smith. "We must have a good system of communication and be able to evacuate people away from coastal areas," he added.

The NDWC will receive information from a national tsunami warning system, as well as from various government departments and scientific organizations abroad, and will be responsible for deciding whether to issue a public warning or not, Dr Smith explained.

"We must have instruments anchored in deep waters to measure waves and help us predict whether a tsunami is coming," he added. Installing such monitoring equipment would cost 54 million baht, Dr Smith said, adding, "However, such instruments would be reliable for only one year or so, and then there’s the possibility that someone might steal the equipment, because we can’t watch it all the time."

If the NWDC issues a disaster warning, Dr Smith explained, it will have at its disposal some 10 television channels, 211 AM and 312 FM radio stations, shortwave radio, more than 1,000 village public address systems and the ability to send SMS messages to 20 million people by mobile phone in ensuring that the warning is distributed as widely as possible.

(Source: Phuket Gazette)

UNESCO to help Thailand with tsunami warning system

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will help Thailand set up a tsunami early warning system by providing training to its officials, Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon has said. After meeting with UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura, Kantathi said the two sides would discuss whether the Pathum Thani- based Asia Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) could be developed into a regional center for the Indian Ocean. The UN agency would also train Thai experts in building a tsunami early warning system, he added.

"Thailand is keen to support ADPC in playing a constructive role on a region-wide basis to have an effective early warning system in the Indian Ocean that is linked to the global system," Kantathi was quoted by Bangkok Post newspaper as saying.

Matsuura said his agency had reached an agreement with Indian Ocean countries that national early warning systems were needed as well as regional ones. Meanwhile, three warning towers will be erected next week in Patong beach of Thailand's southern Phuket province to alert people of possible dangers. Warnings will be sent through the towers to radio stations and public announcement systems and 20 million mobile phones. Similar siren systems are planned to be set up with government budget at 27 more sites in the six provinces wrecked by last year' s tsunami.

Other measures

In his meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, on Jan 13th 2005, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai expressed his appreciation to Japan for extending assistance to the Thai government and the Thai people. Mr. Surakiart pointed out that since Thailand has come to grips with the situation, while some other countries are in greater need of assistance, Thailand believes that the bulk of assistance that the Japanese government is providing now should go to those countries. Both Thai and Japanese foreign ministers discussed cooperation in terms of reconstructing schools, hospitals, and villages destroyed by the disaster. Thailand is ready to allow Japan to use U-tapao air base for conducting its rescue operation to provide relief assistance to the province of Aceh in Indonesia.

Mr. Surakiart told his Japanese counterpart that Thailand would host a regional ministerial meeting on 28 and 29 January 2022 to discuss the establishment of a regional early warning system. Thailand hoped that Japan would take part in this meeting, since Japan has expertise in this area. He said that this meeting would also draw on results and recommendations of the United Nations Conference on Disaster Reduction, to be held in Kobe, Japan, on 18 and 19 January 2005. Apart from the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the affected areas, the Japanese government is also willing to assist Thailand in establishing an early warning system in the Indian Ocean.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany Joschka Fishcher also expressed his firm willingness to work with Thailand in establishing a regional body for the early warning system. At the same time, Germany is ready to help in the rehabilitation of natural resources, as well as reconstruction in the affected areas. The German government is ready to cooperate with Thailand in the early warning system and the rehabilitation of the coastal areas and the reconstruction of schools and villages.