Storm surges of the kind that devastated New Orleans in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, or the one that killed an estimated 140,000 people after Cyclone Nargis in 2008 are not unknown in Thailand.
Vice-Governor Jamroen Thippayapongtada, chairing a meeting on preparations for the exercise, said, “There are a lot of public dangers that cause damage to life and property, especially storm surges, which can be more damaging than tsunamis.
“These have already happened [in Thailand] several times in the past – for example in 1962 at Talumpook Cape [in Nakhon Sri Thammarat], caused by Cyclone Harriet. It caused more than 1,000 deaths. This natural disaster was a tragedy in our history.”
While the Andaman Sea is not generally vulnerable to typhoons born in the Pacific, which can cause havoc in the Philippines, Vietnam, China and Japan, it is vulnerable to cyclones – typhoons by another name – that are born in the southern part of the Bay of Bengal and usually travel north.
V/Gov Jamroen explained, “This rehearsal is a virtual scenario in which fictitious disasters will occur simultaneously in several provinces.
“The rehearsal will include practice in coordinating performance with headquarters, dealing with collapsed housing with casualties, knocked-out communications, evacuation procedures, and efficient maintenance and use of emergency management and geographical information systems.”
To add realism, the exercise will take place when seawater levels are higher than normal. It will also involve training operators of large machines in searching for victims under wreckage in the aftermath of the disaster.
“This exercise will make the people [along the Andaman Coast] have more confidence in their safety,” V/Gov Jamroen said.
“We will continue to rehearse this plan year-round so that everyone involved is always ready for natural disasters, so that they will cause the least possible damage, especially in terms of loss of life.”