The buoy, designated ‘Station 23461’ in the multinational tsunami-warning array west of Phuket, was confirmed last week as missing from its anchored location in the Andaman Sea some 280km northwest of Phuket.
Dr Prasong Thammapala, Acting Director of the Information Technology and Communication Center at the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM), explained to The Phuket News that the buoy was likely set adrift after being struck by a passing boat or ship.
However, while buoy was floating aimlessly in the sea, the GPS locator was still functioning and the buoy was still transmitting real-time data, he confirmed.
A team of experts from Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) has now recovered the missing buoy and brought it back to Phuket, Dr Prasong told The Phuket News today (Sept 25).
The team departed the Royal Thai Navy base at Thap Lamu in Phang Nga on Monday, Dr Prasong explained.
“The DDPM team left the port at Thap Lamu at 2pm on Monday. They stayed overnight at Tha Chai island, then continued their journey the next day and found the buoy at 10:30am,” he said.
The team had the buoy on board by 2pm and began their journey home, he said.
“They stayed at Koh Tha Chai [on Tuesday night] to avoid the strong wind and waves, and lef there at 5am [Wednesday]. They arrived at Thap Lamu at midday that day,” Dr Prasong added.
The buoy has now been brought back to Phuket and is being inspected by DDPM experts to determine which repairs need to be made.
“We have not yet set a date for having the buoy repaired and installed back at its original location,” Dr Prasong said.
“We have to wait for the experts to make their assessment and for the repairs to be made,” he said.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s only other tsunami-warning buoy among the international network in the ‘Bay of Bengal array’ remains silent after being scavenged for parts.
“The Indian Navy still has the buoy. At this stage we do not know when we will be able to recover it so repairs can be made, and have it returned, fully functioning,” Dr Prasong said.