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Phuket tsunami buoy: recovery mission launched today



PHUKET: Thailand’s early warning system for tsunamis has taken a big step backward with the revelation that its only tsunami direct detection buoy is not only inoperable, but adrift on the high seas.

Royal Thai Navy warship Bang Pakong 456 was due to leave its port at Phang Nga Naval Base late this afternoon in a bid to locate the missing buoy, which was moored 600 nautical miles northwest of Phuket late last year under a project costing 48 million baht.

Indian navy vessels first notified the Thai Ministry of Information and Communications Technology on June 3 that the buoy had gone adrift and was moving eastward toward the Thai coastline at an average speed of about 6 knots.

A notice on the US government’s National Data Buoy System web page for the buoy currently reads:

“Station 23401 went adrift on 06/04/2010 and is no longer providing water column or Tsunami Event data. It will be restored into service when it can be recovered and then worked into Thailand’s maintenance schedule.”

Cooperation between Thailand’s Third Naval Command and their Indian counterparts led to the discovery of the buoy by an Indian warship on June 29.

However, no Indian vessels capable of recovering the unit were available to retrieve the unit and its movements have since been tracked by Thailand’s National Disaster Warning Center (NDWC).

The buoy is now thought to be about 200 miles offshore, near the boundary of Thailand territorial waters.

Bang Pakong 456 is expected to intercept and recover the unit about 4am tomorrow, local time.

Helicopters will take part in the search effort and a team of special divers under the supervision of NDWC officials will inspect the unit for damage.

Bang Pakong 456 is expected to return to port in Phang Nga around 9am Sunday morning.

— Sittipong Nongkaew & S. Fein


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