Phuket Airport conducts tsunami drill

PHUKET: A tsunami evacuation drill conducted at Phuket International Airport yesterday afternoon was declared a success by organizing officials.

About 300 people from 34 organizations and agencies took part in the exercise, including Phuket Airport officers, airline staff, business operators, passengers and volunteers.

Codenamed PEMEX 2011, short for Phuket Emergency Exercises, the drill was based on the theoretical approach of a tsunami wave generated by 9.0 magnitude earthquake centered 460 kilometers west of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, about 460 kilometers off Phuket.

This was the same location where the catastrophic earthquake that hit on the morning of December 26, 2004 was centered.

The theoretical tsunami generated at 2:30pm would within 40 minutes reach the shoreline near the airport, the westernmost part of which is located just 100 meters from the high-tide mark.

Just three minutes after the seismic event, at 2:33pm, news of the quake was relayed to the Phuket Airport Director and participating government officers.

From there events unfolded quickly, as follows:

2:40pm: Using its public address system, Phuket Airport announces an emergency evacuation from the terminal building via the posted tsunami evacuation route to the designated safety zone at the offices of Phuket Air Catering Co Ltd (PACCO), about 1.4 kilometers east along the service road that runs parallel to the runway.

3:10pm: Smiling but tired, the evacuees arrive PACCO, where the mock injured receive emergency first aid from DMAT teams already set up and waiting for them in the PACCO parking lot.

3:10pm: A report from the nearby Southern Meteorological Center (West Coast) confirmed the non-existence of aforementioned hypothetical tsunami. The situation is declared “back to normal”.

3:20pm: The exercise finishes and Airports of Thailand acting president Nirandra Theeranartsin addresses participants.

“I am very pleased with the exercises and want to thank everyone for their cooperation. This shows we are prepared to handle the situation if a tsunami is approaching. We will know what to do step-by-step and which route will take us to the safety zone,” he said.

Despite its proximity to Mai Khao Beach, the tsunami waves that struck at about 10am on December 26, 2004 never made it over the dunes and onto the runways.

However, a great deal of debris was blown onto the airfield by onshore winds. Workers cleared the runways by about 2pm, but due to all the chaos flight traffic resumed at about 7pm that day.

— Pimwara Choksakulpan

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