Country’s worst quake for 459 years, govt says
The Nation, Published on December 27, 2004

No earthquake in Thai history has been as severe or caused tidal waves as big as 10 metres

The earthquake that sent tidal waves crashing into southern Thailand yesterday is the worst one to affect the country in 459 years, the Mineral Resources Department said.

Department director-general Somsak Photisat said the last earthquake with such severe effects occurred in 1545 and damaged the ancient city of Chiang Mai.

Historical records also showed that a big quake hit in Thailand in 1015, sinking the ancient city of Yonok and turning the area into a big lake, Somsak said.

He said the more recent major earthquakes to hit Thailand included:

A quake on May 13, 1935, that measured 6.5 on the Richter scale with its epicentre in Nan, near the Pua Fault. Since the epicentre was in a forested area, the damage was not recorded, but the quake was felt even in Bangkok.

Twin earthquakes on February 17, 1975. One of them had its epicentre in Tak’s Tha Song Yang district, near the May-Wangjao Fault, and measured 5.6 on the Richter scale while the other had its epicentre near the Srinakharin Dam in Kanchanaburi’s Si Sawat district and measured 5.9 on the Richter scale.

An earthquake on September 11, 1994, in Chiang Rai’s Phan district and nearby areas caused severe damage to the district hospital, temples and several schools. The quake’s epicentre was in Chiang Rai’s Pa Pao district and it measured 5.1 on the Richter scale.

Somsak said several more quakes occurred in Chiang Rai and nearby areas, including the Thai-Laos and Thai-Burma borders, in 1995 and 1996.

However, he said, no earthquake in Thailand’s history was as severe as the one yesterday because none had ever caused such big tidal waves.

“No quakes in the past have ever caused tidal waves 10 metres high like this one,” Somsak said.

He said his department had failed to warn people along the coastline in time, even though the waves reached them some time after the quake occurred, because it had problems coordinating with the Meteorological Department.

He added that his department did not have seismic monitoring equipment, only information on major faults in the country.