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Warning rejected to protect tourism
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  1. #1
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    blushing

    Warning rejected to protect tourism
    Published on December 28, 2004

    Minutes after the earthquake hit northern Sumatra at 7.58am on Sunday, officials of the Meteo-rological Department, who were at a seminar in Cha-am, convened an emergency meeting chaired by Supharerk Tansrirat-tanawong, director-general.

    They had just learned that the Bangkok office had reported a quake measuring at 8.1 on the Richter scale, which was much lower than the level officially recorded later.

    “We didn’t think there would be subsequent seismic waves, because a similar quake of 7.6 on the Richter scale, which hit Sumatra on November 2, 2002, did not affect Thailand,” said a member of the department who asked not to be named.

    Moreover, the quake this time hit west of Sumatra and officials thought the island might offer a natural shelter, preventing any waves from breaking towards Phuket and its vicinity, he said.

    With slightly less than one hour before the waves came ashore, Supharerk said, the department officials did not expect a tsunami. There are just four people on the department’s 900-person staff who are earthquake experts, he said. Also, a tsunami had not hit Thailand in more than 300 years.

    But sources said they did discuss the likelihood that a tsunami could hit Thailand’s Andaman Sea coastal towns. This was also played down.

    “The very important factor in making the decision was that it’s high [tourist] season and hotel rooms were nearly 100-per-cent full. If we issued a warning, which would have led to evacuation, [and if nothing happened], what would happen then? Business would be instantaneously affected. It would be beyond the Meteorological Department’s ability to handle. We could go under, if [the tsunami] didn’t come,” said a source who attended the meeting.

    “We hesitated for a while whether we should issue a warning or not. It was discussed but we didn’t have a chance to do it.”

    Supharerk denied that tourism factored into the discussion at the 11th hour. “I think we have done our best,” he said.

    Precisely at 9am that Sunday, waves as high as 3 to 10 metres hit the main southern coastal provinces of Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi and Ranong.

    Pravit Rojanaphruk

    The Nation
    \"I touch the future. I teach.\"

  2. #2
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    sad

    Thank you Sally.

    Even though this looks like another sad example of how sheer greed puts monetary interests ahead of saving lives, this is actually even worse than that. If the warning and evacuation would have been proven false, lots of money would have been lost, no doubt. Now that the disaster actually struck, it claimed lives, and the monetary loss might be just as high, if not higher.

    It seems that the warning was not withheld for financial reasons, but rather suppressed by some big-wigs who tried to protect their positions at all costs. I'm not sure it worked...

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] ]big-wigs
    I see, your using one of my favorite sayings. The Big-Wigs have a lot to be responsible for throughout out the world, but rarely do they make any decisions in haste as they need days and days of discussions before they will commit to anything.

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    I have two different outlooks on this matter.

    The fact that a warning was with-held, that is truly a sad mistake that was made.

    However what the issues on the news shown in the USA is whether or not to implement a warning system in many of the country's that were affected and did not previously have a warning system set-up. Many of us are familiar with this type of system. I live in an area that is quite prone to tornado storms. When a tornado is confirmed alarms and sirens throughout the area are easily heard and quickly identified. Too, in areas along coastal lines that are vulnerable to hurricanes, there are similar warning sirens.

    It would be very stupid to spend the money to set-up a hurricane warning system in a city 1,000 miles from the coast. It obviously is not done. Now if somehow a freak of nature caused a hurricane to hit this city one day, would it be wise to implement such a system of warning after the fact? Clearly not.

    Exactly how many times has a Tsunami hit these coastlines ??

    I think the idea that the media is turning into a big issue, is an obsurd one. Because this happened, it does not mean that it will happen again. It is crazy to expect country's that are so financially weak to invest in a system that will likely never be used. Especially when the warning signs will so easily be recognized for decades to come.
    Since light travels faster than sound, people appear bright until you hear them speak....and in every forum you will find at least one.

    When you critisize someone, walk a mile in his shoes first; then, if he gets mad, he'll be a mile away and barefoot.

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    Tsunami Warning Failed to Get Through-Thai Expert
    By Crispian Balmer

    PHUKET, Thailand (Reuters) - A Thai expert said on Monday he tried to warn the government a deadly tsunami might be sweeping toward tourist-packed beaches, but couldn't find anyone to take his calls.



    Samith Dhammasaroj said he was sure a tsunami was coming as soon as he heard about the massive Dec. 26 earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island that measured magnitude 9.0 -- the world's biggest in 40 years.


    "I tried to call the director-general of the meteorological office, but his phone was always busy," Samith said as he described his desperate attempts to generate an alert which might have saved thousands of lives.


    "I tried to phone the office, but it was a Sunday and no-one was there," said the former chief of the meteorological department now charged with setting up an early warning disaster system for Thailand.


    "I knew that one day we would have this type of tsunami. I warned that there would be a big disaster," he told reporters.


    "Everyone laughed at me and said I was a bad guy who wanted to ruin the tourist industry," he added.


    The tsunami took just 75 minutes to hit the beaches and islands of Thailand's Andaman Sea coast, 375 miles from the earthquake's epicenter.


    Now more than 5,100 people are dead, nearly half of them foreign tourists who abandoned Europe's cold, dark winter for golden sands and turquoise seas, and left 3,800 missing, nearly 1,700 of them foreigners.


    Downstairs from where he spoke, dozens of foreigners were still scanning message boards, trying to match grisly photos of bloated, battered bodies to the smiling pictures of missing friends and relatives.


    "I feel very sorry for the people who died," Samith said. "I will make sure this thing does not happen again."


    The early warning system for Thailand -- which has not had a natural disaster in living memory worse than floods during the annual monsoon -- would be ready in six months, Samith promised.


    "We will make the system very efficient," he said.


    ROARING SEA


    Preliminary investigations by a team of six Japanese experts showed that the wall of water hit beaches along the Thai coast at different speeds and heights, with the phenomenon exacerbated by a high tide that fed the tsunami as it neared land.


    Khao Lak beach, lined with hotels and resorts especially popular among Scandinavians and Germans just north of Phuket, took the worst hit from waves up to 10.5 meters (34 ft) high.


    They roared up Khao Lak's gently sloping beach at speeds of up to 8 meters a second (29 kilometers an hour), said Professor Hideo Matsutomi, who led the Japanese team.


    "There have been six major tsunami in this region since 1797, but I think this last tsunami was the biggest," he said.





    Tsunami are much more frequent in the Pacific Ocean and countries there have long established an early warning system to protect them from disaster.

    Samith said countries in the Indian Ocean had to follow suit and set up a network of underwater sea monitors which might cost as little as $20 million to build.

    Warnings of imminent inundations would be sent out automatically on television and radio and by text messages to mobile phones.

    The system would help woo back tourists scared away by the mass loss of life, Samith said.

    "No-one can predict an earthquake, but you can predict a tsunami," he said. "We will build a good system."

    "We will help tourists come back to Thailand."

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] ] Minutes after the earthquake hit northern Sumatra at 7.58am on Sunday, officials of the Meteo-rological Department, who were at a seminar in Cha-am, convened an emergency meeting chaired by Supharerk Tansrirat-tanawong, director-general
    I think it is totally unbelievable that a warning was not announced. given that so many people know it was a possibility. It comes down to pure selfishness and worry about loosing a small amount of money.
    given the circumstances if the people were to have been evacuated for a day or two, and there was no wave. I dont see there would be a problem. as it was perfectly possible a Tsunami could have happened, so already the evacuation was justified because of the huge earth quake in sumatra. what has been lost, a few days rent in the hotels !!! not much really.
    as for the money loss of an evacuation compared to the dammage of the tsunami itself, well I believe there will be no camparison. the dammage caused by the tsunami will be thousands and thousands of times more expensive than a 1 or two day evacuation, and there will also be many more long term problems, like people scarred to return, all these hotels homes etc have to be rebuilt and how about the people lost, families livlyhoods etc the list goes on. how about the smaller islands with fishing communities, the local thai people who were poor already. after comparing the two consiquences of if there was or wasn't a tsunami. I find it very very hard indeed to believe these people " officials of the Meteo-rological Department" did actually consider the effects of a tsunami at all.... and if they did and just chose not to tell people in the hope the tsunami wouldn't happen to save money(as this what it comes down to) then well I think these people must be utterly selfish and not worthy of there position.

    I still find it totally unbelievable that many people knew it was a possibility but chose not to speak just to save the tourist industry (just a few days of tourist industry I might add !!&#33. and what I find even more unbelievable is why weren't the thai local families,businesses,homes warned?? didn't they have a right to know of a possible tsunami. doesn't the thai government have a responsibility to look after its own people, or maybe it seems they are only interested in the tax generated from the tourist resorts !!!?

  7. #7
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    Thailand warned before waves hit
    The Australian
    Kimina Lyall, Southeast Asia correspondent, in Bangkok
    January 06, 2005

    THAILAND was on a list of countries sent tsunami alerts by an early-warning centre in Hawaii within 15 minutes of the earthquake off Sumatra.

    The first alert from the Pacific Tsunami Early Warning Centre did not specify a tsunami, but a subsequent warning an hour and five minutes later - still almost an hour before the wave hit many of Thailand's western beaches - did suggest the quake could have caused a local tsunami.

    Ten days after the tsunami took thousands of lives in Thailand, it remained unclear whether Thai authorities had received advance indications of the impending disaster.

    Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has suspended his weather bureau chief pending an investigation into the office's failure to provide a warning of the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami.

    Mr Thaksin said Suparerk Tansriratanawong would be moved for six months to his department while an investigation was conducted.









    "When a quake measuring at 8.9 to 9.0 on the Richter scale struck Sumatra, it was widely known a tsunami could happen," Mr Thaksin said.

    "But why weren't there any alerts? I really want to know the truth."

    Thailand's The Nation newspaper has reported that senior officials from the weather bureau, headed by Mr Suparerk, were meeting at Cha-am, a resort town on the protected side of the Thai peninsula, on Boxing Day when they received news of the earthquake from other sources.

    However, according to the newspaper, they decided not to issue an evacuation warning for fears that it would affect the tourism industry.

    The Australian revealed last week that the Thai Government was officially warned seven years ago that tsunamis stemming from an earthquake on the seabed could hit the country, but that warning was also ignored for fear of frightening off tourists and investors.

    Geophysicist Barry Hishorn, of the US's Hawaii-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Australian yesterday he and his colleagues issued warnings through the Pacific Tsunami Early Warning Centre, to member countries including Thailand, in the 90 minutes after the quake.

    Those warnings initially said the quake was an 8.0 on the Richter scale and that there was no risk of a tsunami in the Pacific -- the organisation's main purpose -- but later said the quake had been upgraded to an 8.5 and could have caused a tsunami in the local area, referring to Sumatra.

    But he said Thailand, while a member of the group, had not attended a meeting for eight years and had never responded to regular requests to confirm its contact details. So he said the organisation had no way of knowing if Thailand received the warnings.

    He said that even if Thai officials had received the notification, they would have needed to make their own deductions that the quake had a possibility of creating a tsunami that could reach Thailand's shores, as the warning did not suggest that that would be likely.

    "It's reasonable they wouldn't have been too worried about it," he said.

    "A magnitude 8 would probably mean a local tsunami for Sumatra. I know they have said they didn't want to affect tourism, but if there was nothing to worry about, there would have been no need to evacuate."

    By the time the quake's true size - 8.9, about 32 times bigger than an 8 - was recorded, the wave had already hit Thailand, India and Sri Lanka and the Pacific Tsunami Early Warning Centre turned its attention to warning countries along the African coast.

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    Wow those are some very harsh words.
    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] (ngoo @ Jan. 04 2005,06:51)]
    I think it is totally unbelievable that a warning was not announced.
    Considering the location of the quake itself, Thailand knew that India and Sri Lanka would likely be hit, but a real threat was not really there for Thailand due to location. Considering the loss of life in Thailand being roughly 5-8 thousand, in comparison to Sri Lanka being over 100,000, it seems as though they were only slightly off their estimates.
    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] (ngoo @ Jan. 04 2005,06:51)]
    It comes down to pure selfishness and worry about loosing a small amount of money.
    Not exactly true, you see there is no organized warning system or emergency evacuation routes established. This is not an annual event you see. It is a rarity, one that will likely not occur again in this region for several generations to come.

    Not too mention with no plans in place, and not knowing exactly how nature is to be predicted, and the routes that storms take, what would they do? Evacuate the entire coast??! That is not feasible, even in the USA it is not possible to evacuate an entire coastal line, much less in Thailand.
    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] (ngoo @ Jan. 04 2005,06:51)]
    what I find even more unbelievable is why weren't the thai local families,businesses,homes warned?? didn't they have a right to know of a possible tsunami. doesn't the thai government have a responsibility to look after its own people, or maybe it seems they are only interested in the tax generated from the tourist resorts !!!?
    Tourism would certainly be hurt by a falso alarm. Thailand is not a land that has a great tourist industry. Tourism IS their industry. Tourism is what puts the food on the table. Putting a false alarm out would damage it yes, but again I ask how would they give this warning with no program or alert system already in place.

    Boils down to simply hind sight being 20/20 I think.
    Since light travels faster than sound, people appear bright until you hear them speak....and in every forum you will find at least one.

    When you critisize someone, walk a mile in his shoes first; then, if he gets mad, he'll be a mile away and barefoot.

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    I agree entirely Stacker. I think it's harsh to apportion blame for an unprecedented event such as this, and a search for a scapegoat isn't going to bring back any of the dead. It's easy to see with hindsight, but two weeks ago it would have seemed unbeliveable to suggest a mass evacuation of Phuket and other southern provinces. It would have been a massive decision for those responsible to make.

    I was watching an interview on CNN with the former head of the Metereological Association who ordered an evacuation of Phuket beaches a few years ago based on a Tsunami warning. He said in the end after this false-alarm warning he was subsequentely hounded out of his job by angry business owners, accused of harming the economy by scaring tourists away, and turned into just about a laughing stock. I guess it comes down to these officials being in the unenviable position of having to be right every single time - one mistake or false alarm has huge consequences.

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    <span style='color:black'><span style='font-size:14pt;line-height:100%'>Bangkok given prompt quake alert: watchdog</span>
    January 7, Bangkok Post

    Vienna – Indonesia and Thailand were warned almost immediately of the mssive undersea earthquaqe last month that sparked deadly tsunamis across the Indian Ocean, an official of thebody set up to monitor nuclear tests said yesterday.

    “The raw data from our sensors was transmitted in the moments that followed the earthquake to a number of national centres, including those of Indonesia and Thailand,” Bernhard Wrabetz, a spokesman for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), said. “But it is not known what those centres did with the data, which can only be interpreted by specialists,” he added.

    The Vienna-based CTBTO has a network of sensors across the world which were set up to detect any nuclear tests that violate the 1996 treaty, but also monitor natural seismic activity.
    “Our mission is not to detect earthquakes and tsunamis, but we want to adapt our system so that it can also function to this end,” with a specific alert capacity, Mr. Wrabetz said.
    The giant waves sparked by the quake off Sumatra hit Indonesia within 30 minutes and Thailand half an hour later.

    The failure of the Meteorological Department to give a warning sparked a row in Thailand which lead to the transfer of the department head, as the government announced last wee it would set up an inquiry why there was no alert.</span>

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