Phuket mops up after storm, damage cost rises

PHUKET: Residents and tourists across Phuket will be breathing a collective sigh of relief this weekend as extended periods of sunshine are forecast to return after the island was pummelled by a week of heavy downpours and strong winds that gusted upwards of 40 knots – bringing down trees, power lines and causing storm damage to nearly 100 homes across the island.

By The Phuket News

Saturday 23 June 2018, 10:52AM

The roots of a large tree Banyan tree toppled in Phuket Town rest on a fence. Photo: DDPM-Phuket

The roots of a large tree Banyan tree toppled in Phuket Town rest on a fence. Photo: DDPM-Phuket

Prapan Kanprasang, Director of the Phuket office of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM-Phuket), confirmed to The Phuket News on Wednesday (June 20) that his office had been notified of 91 houses in total in 21 villages that had suffered damage during the onslaught of weather, which began Thursday last week (June 14) and culminated in storm bursts and extreme gusts of wind exceeding 70km/h.

The spread of damage confirmed that very few parts of the island escaped unscathed. “The damaged houses, and vehicles, were located in 14 different subdistricts throughout all three districts in Phuket,” Mr Prapan said.

Most damage was caused by trees falling across roads and onto houses in areas including Wichit, Muang District, Pa Khlok, Thalang, Kamala and Kathu, he added.

Thankfully the damage was not extensive. “The estimated cost of the damage caused is B373,500,” Mr Prapan said. There were also no reports of damaging flash floods or landslides.

However, Mr Prapan declined to even estimate the coast of damage islandwide, including to private and government property, resulting from the storm weather.

The government is providing disaster assistance to households that qualify, Mr Prapan noted.

However, to receive support affected families must report the damage to their local municipality or Tambon Administration Organisation (OrBorTor).

“Local officials will inspect and assess the damage before assistance will be granted,” Mr Prapan explained.

The strong winds brought down power lines across Thepkrasattri Rd in front the Hongyok School near Moo Baan Suan Maphrao at about midday on Monday.

Tha Chatchai Police Chief Col Prawit Suttiruangarun was notified of the downed power lines at 12:30pm. Nine power poles were felled in total.

Police were dispatched to the scene to help direct traffic past the hazard while workers from the Thalang office of the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) began the unenviable task of clearing the cables and restoring power in the heavy rain.

Also on Monday, Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong ordered relevant government agencies including the DDPM-Phuket and local administrative offices to prepare rescue equipment for those in need of urgent assistance.

Staff should be able to provided 24 hours assistance in case of any disasters, especially in high-risk areas where landslides and floods are possible, he said.

However, Gov Norraphat added that cooperation is needed from residents to beware of the dangers of heavy rains causing flash floods during the weather warning period.

That call for awareness followed a huge, 100-year-old Banyan tree on Narisorn Rd in the government quarter of Phuket Town being brought crashing down, luckily in the opposite direction from a house situated right beside it.

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No people were injured, but emergency workers took hours to clear the massive tree from the road.

In Patong, where blackouts affected areas for days, the storm-struck Jungceylon shopping mall saw the strong winds last Sunday rip apart the huge sail shade canopies held overhead by steel pylons. The mall reopened after all-night repairs were carried out.

Staff at the mall confirmed on Monday that the remains of the sail shade covers and all the support pylons damaged had been removed and that no people were injured in the incident.

“Due to the situation yesterday and after our hard work all last night, we are pleased to kindly inform you that no serious damage or injuries have been reported and that all the broken structures have now been removed. Jungceylon is completely back to usual operating again,” The Phuket News was told.

“We do not have a plan to fix the sail shade, but we plan to replace it with a new one with a new design soon,” one representative at Jungceylon told The Phuket News.

Long before that onslaught, a young couple house hunting in the Ban Pru Jampa area in Tambon Thepkrasattri last Saturday luckily escaped injury when a large tree fell onto their car while they were driving home at about 8:30pm, cracking the windscreen and causing heavy damage to the roof of the car, a Honda Civic. (See story here.)

While efforts since the weather broke on Wednesday have been primarily focused on carrying out repairs and cleanup operations, concerns have been raised over the accuracy of wind speeds reported by the Thai Meteorological Department on its website, which are echoed elsewhere through non-independent weather services.

Of note, many of the key independent weather reporting services available online -- and trusted by many expats on the island operating tourism services -- marked the wind speeds in excess of 40 knots, about 74km/h, while the top wind speed recorded during the intense wet-weather period from last Saturday (June 16) through Wednesday this week (June 21) did not exceed 48km/h.

Specifically, the TMD as of yesterday (June 22) still reported the wind speeds and rainfall for the Phuket Town area during the period as -- Jun 16: 35.2km/h, 49.0mm; Jun 17: 48.2km/h, 60.0, Jun 18: 27.8km/h, 43.8mm; Jun 19: 40.8km/h, 8.6mm; Jun 20: 33.4km/h, 42.2mm: and Jun 21: 33.4km/h, 0.0mm.

For the area at Phuket International airport, the TMD as of yesterday still reported the wind speeds and rainfall during the period as -- Jun 16: 16.7km/h, 39.5m; Jun 17: 25.9km/h, 38.5mm; Jun 18: 31.5km/h, 62.3mm; Jun 19: 20.4km/h, 9.2mm; Jun 20: 42.6km/h, 50.2mm; and Jun 21: 24.1km/h, 0.0mm.

To explain the TMD reports, Soros Swaddiraksa of the Phuket TMD office told The Phuket News this week, "The reports posted on the TMD website at three-hour intervals throughout the day [on the "Last 24 Hour Weather Report"] are recorded automatically by the measuring devices.

"The wind speed reported is an instant recording taken at the beginning of each time period." he said. (See "Last 24 Hour Weather Report" for Phuket Airport here.)

However, Mr Soros explained that the devices do record continuously and allow for extreme gusts the "Max Wind Speed" to be report, again automatically, the next day in the "Last 7 Days" report. (See "Last 7 Days" report for Phuket Airport here.)

Regardless, Mr Soros still offered no explanation for the discrepancy for the TMD reports and those by independent services.



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