No tsunami warning for Phuket

PHUKET / PHANG NGA:  A tsunami warning  was issued in Phang Nga’s Ban Nam Khem village last night, but there were no warnings or evacuations in Phuket.

About 400 residents of the village in Phang Nga’s Takua Pa district were then evacuated early this morning following further warnings that a tsunami could hit their shore.

The warning followed a 7.6 Richter earthquake reported by the US Geological Survey (USGS) at 1:55 this morning.

Maitree Jongkraijak, a Ban Nam Khem community co-ordinator, said he received an SMS warning from the National Disaster Monitoring Center (NDMC) at about two minutes after midnight following a report of a 4.8 Richter quake.

The larger quake was centered about 260 kilometers north of India’s Andaman Islands, according to the USGS.

The epicenter was 33 kilometers beneath the earth’s surface.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii issued a tsunami watch for Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand, saying the earthquake was strong enough to produce a tsunami along coastlines within a 1,000-kilometer radius.

At Ban Nam Khem, Mr Maitree immediately alerted 60 volunteers to be on standby after the first quake.

When another SMS warning arrived at 5am, he and the volunteers woke up residents of the community and led about 400 of them to the upper floors of the three-story Ban Nam Khem School

They returned home at 7am, when the center sent another SMS to cancel the tsunami warning.

The Ban Nam Khem village was devastated by a tsunami in December 2004.

It is not yet known why the alert was issued so long after the quake was reported or how many other coastal communities conducted similar evacuations.

There were no evacuations or warnings in Phuket, however.

In a related development, the tsunami direct detection buoy moored off Phuket – the closest to the epicenter – surprisingly resumed transmitting data last night, just before the quake.

The Gazette had earlier reported that the buoy’s battery had died and that it stopped transmitting on June 16, a fact confirmed by the NDWC and the Phuket office of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM-Phuket).

NDWC advisor Dr Seree Supratit confirmed this morning that the buoy had resumed transmitting data, though he did not know how.

The Gazette has been unable to contact NDWC technicians this morning to see if the battery is just low and if perhaps to save power the unit is now being selectively activated following reports of seismic activity.

It is still not known whether data from the buoy was used by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in issuing the alert.

As of yesterday afternoon, there were no functioning direct detection buoys in the Indian Ocean, but this morning there are five, according to the website of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Data Buoy Center (NDBC).

In addition to the Phuket buoy, India has now deployed four direct detection buoys along its coastline.

Of these, three were transmitting this morning, according to the NDBC website.

NDWC committee chairman Dr Smith Dharmasaroja last week told the Gazette that due to their location, the Indian buoys would be of little benefit to Thailand in the event of a tsunami.

Dr Smith said he was frustrated by political infighting at the agency that has prevented it from deploying two more buoys, funding for which was approved last year.

There is disagreement in the agency over whether the detection buoys should be bought from the US or from the same company that sold the buoys to India, he said.

Dr Smith said he had requested a budget to replace the batteries on the Phuket tsunami buoy ‘many times’, but without success.

— Khunakorn Terdkiatkhachorn & Nation reporters

Phuket News
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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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