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Evacuation practice set for April 29

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Evacuation practice set for April 29 | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Tourists hitting the sands of Patong Beach early next Friday morning may find themselves in for a bit of a surprise, as the province plans to conduct a tsunami evacuation drill in the area at 10 am on April 29.

An “evacuation route map” and a variety of warning signs were presented Wednesday to a seminar at The Metropole Hotel led by Suntorn Liuluang, Director-General of the Office of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation,

Speakers at the seminar included Smith Thammasaroj, who was appointed by the Prime Minister to establish the National Disaster Warning Center (NDWC), and Phuket Governor Udomsak Usawarangkura.

As the Andaman coast’s most heavily developed tourist district, Patong was selected as the site for the pilot project for the NDWC warning system, which Center officials say will eventually cover the entire Andaman coast.

The evacuation drill will be in response to a theoretical tsunami-producing earthquake of 9.0 Richter-scale magnitude, with an epicenter near the Nicobar Islands in India – just 400 kilometers from Phuket.

Such a wave could reach Patong in 30 minutes. With ten minutes needed for the warning message to be sent and the sirens sounded, the evacuation woulf need to be complete within 20 minutes, the seminar was told.

Governor Udomsak Usawarangkura said that with an effective plan in place, it should be possible to evacuate people to safety within that time, whether the warning comes at day or night.

The March 28 earthquake and subsequent tsunami scare demonstrated the need to implement an evacuation plan as quickly as possible. This involved designating evacuation routes, training of personnel and installation of equipment, he added.

Dr Smith said that installation of NDWC equipment for Patong was already 90% complete and would be finished by the end of April, making it the first of its kind in the countries hit by the December 26 tsunami.

Three siren towers have already been successfully tested in Patong, though these have yet to be connected to the NDWC headquarters, which are located outside Bangkok.

Dr Smith said that the NDWC warning system for coastal regions of all six tsunami-affected provinces would be completed within six to 12 months.

This would involve installation of more siren towers, spaced at distances of 1.5 to 1.8 kilometers, all of which would be directly linked via satellite to the NDWC center in Nonthaburi.

In addition, the Meteorological Department would also issue tsunami warnings through radio and TV networks, he said.

Dr Smith said that extending the warning system to cover all of Phuket would involve the installation of 15 more warning towers. This could be accomplished within three months at a cost of 40 million baht, he said.

He did not elaborate on how just 15 siren towers, emitting signals audible at a radius of 1.5 to 1.8 kilometers, could cover the entire coastline – or if by “complete coverage” he was referring only to the west-facing beaches popular with foreign tourists.

The three warning towers in Patong were donated by their manufacturer at a cost of around 7 million baht, he said.

K. Smith, who faced ridicule when, as Meteorological Department director seven years ago, he lobbied for a tsunami warning system, added that if such a system had been developed at that time the lives of some 6,000 to 7,000 people in Thailand could have been saved on December 26, 2004.

Phang Nga Governor Anuwat Metheeviboonwut told the seminar that the first evacuation plan in his province, for Takuapa District, would be completed on May 10 and would cover Nang Thong, Bang Niang, Khao Lak and Bang Sak beaches.

He added that Phang Nga needs a minimum of 10 warning towers along its western coast between Tai Muang and Kuraburi Districts. In some areas evacuation routes needed to extend as far as two kilometers inland, whereas at beaches backed by hills, such as in parts of Khao Lak, the evacuation routes could be as short as 15 meters, he said.

Dr Smith noted that his department is looking into buying the necessary equipment for Phang Nga [and other provinces] and said that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was very keen to approve funding.

Also unveiled at the seminar were a variety of cardboard warning signs bearing symbolic representations of tsunami waves, along with evacuation instructions in Thai and English.

Responsibility for posting the signs will fall to Patong Municipality, which was represented at the seminar by Deputy Mayor Chairat Sukbal. He said the temporary signs, to be ready for the evacuation drill, would eventually be replaced by more permanent ones.

“We’ll use these until we get the permanent ones, which are taking a long time to get have made,” he explained.

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Tourism

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

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Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO | The Thaiger

There was the original Covid-19 outbreak and lockdowns back in April and May in 2020, then again just before Christmas and New Year when the new clusters emerged in Samut Sakhon and the eastern coastal provinces, Patong’s nightlife was quiet enough, almost non-existent.

Now when the restrictions are lifted, Nimz will take you through Phuket’s famous nightlife spot Bangla Road, Patong Beach and Phuket Town. It’s quiet, but there are still clubs open and operating and ready to welcome you.

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Expats

Deceased Phuket expat’s body stuck in hospital due to passport mix-up

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Deceased Phuket expat’s body stuck in hospital due to passport mix-up | The Thaiger

In a nightmarish scenario, a deceased Phuket expat’s body is stuck in a Thai hospital as his step‐daughter claims hospital administrators won’t release the body due to a passport mix‐up.

Gemma Swift, the step‐daughter of 75 year old David Donoghue, who died 2 weeks ago, says she is pleading with embassy staff in Thailand to resolve, what she says, is purely an administrative issue after Donoghue’s passport number at the hospital was from that of an expired one.

Donoghue’s current passport was on file with the British Embassy, but because it did not match what the hospital had, his body has remained at the hospital. Swift says it was something that could easily be corrected and the situation was “horrendous” for the family.

“The British Embassy over in Bangkok, they said that because [the number] was from his current passport, they were unable to change the letter. They have said that they won’t reissue a letter with the passport number that he’s got in the hospital with him.”

She said her family planned to arrange a funeral for him in Thailand, then bring his ashes back to the UK. As he retired to Phuket 15 years ago, her family would then take his ashes back to Thailand, as per his wishes, to scatter them.

However, none of his family members were able to travel to Thailand to be with Donoghue in his final days, as the mandatory 14 day quarantine period upon entering Thailand, would not have allowed them to see him.

“I thought this was a basic human right to be able to give somebody a funeral and I accept that there is always going to be red tape…but please just issue a letter and let us bring him home.”

She said before Covid-19, family members travelled often to Phuket to visit Donoghue, who once worked for the Thai tourist police. She says the entire ordeal has been heartbreaking as her family was unable to say goodbye.

“That on its own was heart breaking, and now to get this two weeks later, to find out we can’t give him a funeral, or get his ashes back, it’s just horrendous.”

“It’s like being on autopilot… once we know we have done everything we can, we can start the grieving process, but at the minute we can’t.”

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said they are assisting Donoghue’s family during the difficult time.

“Our staff are in contact with the local hospital and funeral director to help his family obtain the necessary paperwork to ensure his body is treated in line with their wishes.”

If the situation isn’t fixed, Donoghue’s body will join a mass cremation at the hospital.

SOURCE: BBC News

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Phuket

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

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Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2 | The Thaiger

In today’s Thailand News Today…. The island of Phuket has a firm plan to get its residents vaccinated leading up to an October opening for tourists, the Thai PM backs up his police over last Sunday’s protest violence and Thai Airway’s employee union criticises the changes to employee contracts.

But the plan must be approved by the national government by April, if the province wants to open tourism by October 1. Phuket has a resident population of around 300- 400,000 people.

Before you go rushing off to book your plane tickets we’d stress that this is another in a long list of proposals that have not come to fruition and we’d urge patience until the Government approves the plans.

Meanwhile the island has taken delivery of 4,000 doses of the Chinese Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine. Vaccinations started yesterday, with priority given to 1,500 healthcare workers and 500 “at-risk” officials exposed to Covid-19 patients.

On a broader note… Thailand’s Tourism Minister says he has asked the Public Health Ministry to approve a vaccine passport scheme aimed at reviving Thailand’s devastated tourism sector. According to the Minister, the government is looking to the World Health Organisation to issue a statement on vaccine passports before it makes a final decision on the matter.

The Thai PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha has defended police action against protesters taking part in Sunday’s anti-government rally in Bangkok. Officers from the Metropolitan Police Bureau used tear gas, a water cannon and rubber bullets in an effort to drive protesters back from the PM’s residence. The PM insists the actions were in line with international standards. He says that police did not violate the protesters’ rights.

Thai researchers are claiming that horseshoe bats are not responsible for transmitting the Covid virus to humans. A researcher with the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases-Health Science Centre, says that even though the bats have tested positive for a coronavirus, it is not the strain that is transmissible to humans, and it’s certainly not the virus that causes Covid-19.

As Thai Airways tries to sell new contracts and conditions to its remaining workforce, the labour union of the national carrier is challenging changes to the employment contracts, where Thai Airways employees are being asked to agree to changes as part of the bigger financial rehabilitation program.

But a union representative says the new contracts are unfair because it includes fewer leave days and shorter holidays. The union has filed a complaint with the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare.

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