Phuket tsunami fears groundless: MET

PHUKET: The Meteorological Department (MET) has dismissed as groundless Internet reports that a celestial alignment will cause a tsunami-producing earthquake and solar flares tomorrow.

The rumor appears to have started in Thailand following a posting on a Thai-language website.

According to the post, a rare alignment of the Earth with Jupiter, Uranus, the Moon and the Sun will create strong gravity effects causing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and solar flares starting at 6:30pm and persisting for a few days.

Southern Thailand falls into the first of three zones where the effects will be most strongly felt, according to the report.

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Residents along Thailand’s Gulf Coast have in recent days been calling the Meteorological Department monitoring station in Hua Hin to ask if the rumors are true, Thai print media and TV networks reported.

Somsak Khaosuwan, operations director at the National Disaster Warning Center, dismissed the reports as having no scientific basis.

It was just a rumor. Yesterday morning, the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Thaneerat Siripachana, announced on Radio Thailand that the rumor was baseless,” he said.

The Meteorological Department has also warned people not to panic.

A statement on the state-run National News Bureau website today quoted the Meteorological Department as announcing that none of the world’s disaster-monitoring centers have issued warnings about a major quake tomorrow, and that precise earthquake predictions remained scientifically impossible.

Despite this, some local officials seem to be taking the rumor seriously.

At Phuket International Airport, a full-scale tsunami evacuation drill scheduled for later this month was moved forward and took place yesterday afternoon.

Phuket International Airport Director Prathueng Sornkham said the drill went well, with 400 different agencies and organizations taking part.

We got good cooperation from all related agencies and nearby villagers. Now they will not panic and know what to do if a real tsunami occurs…. The drill was moved forward to be ready by June 12, when some people believe a tsunami will occur,” he said.

It was the second full-scale tsunami evacuation drill at the airport since the 2004 disaster.

Following reports that schools in Kamala were taking tsunami-preparedness measures based on the rumor, the Gazette contacted Rohman Romin, a science teacher at Ratchaprachanukroh 36 School on Kamala Beach.

Mr Rohman said it was the parents and teachers themselves who were talking up the rumors after watching TV reports.

Three or four” parents who have children boarding at the school called to have their children return home because of the rumor, he said.

Mr Rohman, who organizes the school’s tsunami evacuation drills, said these requests were denied after he talked to the NDWC.

Ratchaprachanukroh 36 School, also known as Kamala School, was badly damaged by the 2004 tsunami disaster.

— P. Choksakulpan

Phuket News
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