‘Disaster warning system a mess’ - expert
PHUKET: The National Disaster Centre (NDC) has denied an accusation by tsunami guru Dr Smith Dharmasaroja that Phuket’s disaster warning system is a mess with parts of it not working.
Tuesday 27 December 2011, 10:46AM
The denial has been backed up by the Phuket Meteorological Centre (PMC).
Dr Smith told the German news agency DPA, “There was a regional tsunami warning system in place six years ago but now it doesn’t work.” Dr Smith is the Thai meteorologist who warned the government about the risk of a tsunami striking the country years before one did.
He was appointed chairman of the National Disaster Warning Administration in 2005, after the Asian Tsunami hit, and assigned to put a warning system in place.
But he said yesterday that the system was no longer functioning properly.
Warning buoys placed off Phuket in 2005 have not functioned reliably due to lack of replacement parts, according to experts.
“Don’t worry about the buoys,” said Dr Smith, who was attending a memorial service in Phuket. “Even some of the warning towers don’t work.
“Just yesterday big waves hit the eastern coast of Thailand, flooding many houses, and there were no warnings of that storm,” Smith said of the high waves that hit other southern provinces on Sunday.
He also told The Phuket News that he had heard from local villagers that the towers gave no warning yesterday of storm-level winds that hit the west coast of the island.
However, the Director of the PMC, Santat Paanbaanpaew, said that the heavy weather last night was simply the tail end of the storms currently afflicting the east coast of the peninsula, along the coast of the Gulf of Thailand, as a result of a large depression centred on the South China Sea.
“It was not going to have any impact apart from high waves,” he said. There was therefore no need for a warning to be issued.
Dr Smith’s accusation that the tsunami warning towers around Phuket were not working was countered by an official at the NDC in Bangkok, who asked not to be named.
“The entire system is checked every day by a private contractor based in Phuket. They report to us every day.”
Mr Santat added that the NDC had accepted his idea of broadcasting national songs from the towers as a test, and that this is now done every two weeks, in addition to the daily checks.
As to tsunami warning buoys out in the Indian Ocean, which are intended to give 50 minutes’ warning of an approaching tsunami, Mr Santat said that these were also working well. Earlier ones that malfunctioned have been replaced.
“Please don’t think that the government is not going to issue warnings of impending disasters,” he said. “After all, we only recently had the tsunami in Japan, so everyone is on high alert.”
He added that Thailand does not rely only on its own warning systems. It also has contacts with other countries around the Indian Ocean, such as Indonesia, and will receive alerts from them of any potential disaster.