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Phuket tsunami warning buoy: in good shape after recovery

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket tsunami warning buoy: in good shape after recovery | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: The drifting tsunami detection buoy recovered on Saturday is not as badly damaged as feared and the unit will be redeployed in its original position off the coast of Phuket at the end of the monsoon season, officials say.

The unit was successfully recovered by Navy SEAL divers aboard navy frigate HTMS Bangpakong, which docked at Phang Nga Naval Base at 9am Sunday morning.

A press conference announcing the successful mission was held at the base.

Providing information to the media were Rear Adm Rueangtip Thiantong, deputy commander of the Third Naval Area, HTMS Bangpakong Commanding Officer Capt Chalermchai Suankaew and Raydant International Co Ltd General Manager Aurasa Paenghom.

Raydant International is a private firm that was contracted by the National Disaster Warning Center (NDWC) to set up and maintain Thailand’s tsunami warning system, of which the early detection unit is a key part.

HTMS Bangpakong left Phang Nga Naval Base at 5pm on Friday with 210 crew members, five divers from the elite Royal Thai Navy SEALs and three representatives of Raydant International.

In order to carry out the mission HTMS Bangpakong had to have its crane modified to hoist the two-ton unit. The crane is normally used to lift engine blocks, Capt Chalermchai explained.

The navy was able to track the drift of the buoy using GPS information.

The GPS data put the unit at 205 nautical miles west of the base at 4am on July 17.

Despite heavy rain and high winds, the unit was found using radar technology and then spotted with the naked eye at 6:30am.

The Navy SEAL divers found the unit’s 8-meter anchor chain connected to the much-longer mooring cable, the length of which could not be estimated.

Both cables had to be cut for the unit to be recovered.

The buoy was finally hoisted aboard at 10:45am and HTMS Bangpakong returned to port at 11:30pm the same day.

The other key component of the system, the pressure-sensitive ‘tsunameter’, is presumably still on the sea bottom 3,500 meters below the surface at the buoy’s original mooring site 600 nautical miles northwest of Phuket.

Raydant’s Ms Aurasa said the unit’s internal electronic circuitry was undamaged.

The unit was most likely hit by a passing ship, as indicated by an impact striation. The only other appreciable damage was a broken warning light and missing solar cell, she said.

I think the buoy must have been hit by a big ship during a storm, because despite its bright yellow color it is still quite difficult to notice in rough seas. The cost of the damage is quite low compared to the total cost of the buoy,” she said.

The unit would be turned off to save its battery power, then it would be cleaned and stored at the Phang Nga base until a redeployment mission is ready.

The NDWC has already ordered a new mooring line 4,500 meters long, 200 meters of electric cable, and a new solar cell and warning light, she said.

She expects the redeployment to take place when monsoon conditions begin to abate, probably around November or December, she said.

Asked if going another six months without a direct detection unit would hurt Thailand’s disaster warning capabilities, she said the NDWC could still access information from units deployed by Australia, the USA, India and Indonesia.

We routinely exchange the buoy data with these countries. Don’t worry that a tsunami will come without warning,” she said.

— P. Choksakulpan & S. Fein

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

Phuket

Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Marina Krasnopolska

WARNING! Content below contains photos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

The flags on Go Teng poles were lowered on Monday, ending Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival and symbolising that the spirits have returned the heavens. The flags are raised at the start of the festivities each year at participating shrines, calling on the spirits to descend from the heavens.

This year, 2 men were electrocuted while taking down the festival flags. A steel pole with the flag touched a power pole, electrocuting and burning the workers as they were trying to lower the flags. They were taken to the hospital.

During the festival’s street processions and ceremonies so-called “mah songs” channel the descended spirits. They enter a trance-like state and many practice self-mutilation to channel the spirits. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and some say the mah song acts as a horse for the spirit to ride.

Some mah song pierce their cheeks and other parts of their body with steel spikes and sometimes swords or other bizarre choices (we’ve seen petrol pumps, javelins, samurai swords and kitchen utensils). During the street procession, they walk for hours with the self-inflicted piercings, seemingly posessed by ‘spirits’ and muttering all sort of strange chants, verging on mild cases of Tourette syndrome. A team of devotees for each mah song wipe away blood and keep the wounds clean. Some mah songs even slice their tongue for the street procession. Blood drips on their chest and the ground. Waiting bystanders line the streets hoping for the blessing of a passing mah song. Some mah songs carry a black flag.

The event is an annual spiritual ‘cleansing’ for those in watching the processions. Onlookers lining the street bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position as the mah song waves flags and banners over their heads. Businesses along the procession route often set up an altar outside their shop and mah songs stop at each one to do a short ritual.

The Phuket government gave the festival organisers the “okay” to hold this years event with hopes that it would increase domestic tourism and generate much-needed revenue after the Thai government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic crippled Phuket’s tourist economy. Before this year’s festival, Phuket City Mayor Somjai Suwansupana asked that the mah songs “limit the level of torturing.” He also called for a limit on the number of people at ceremonies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

His calls were largely ignored.

The spirits will again return in 2021 to Phuket again cleanse the island’s large Thai-Chinese community.

Photos of the 2020 Vegetarian Festival by Marina Krasnopolska.

Phuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket told to prepare “response plan” in case of second Covid-19 outbreak

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket told to prepare “response plan” in case of second Covid-19 outbreak | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Daily News

As Phuket awaits foreign tourists, city officials are told to prepare a “response plan” in case of a second wave of Covid-19. An official from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports held a workshop in Phuket today to discuss the risk of another outbreak as the country opens up to those on the Special Tourist Visa.

The ministry’s permanent secretary Chote Trachu says now that the country is allowing tourists (who are required to quarantine upon arrival) an infection “may somehow slip through.” He says a response plan needs to be in place in case this happens, adding that there should be corporation from the Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Defense.

“If any tourists are found to be infected, the disease must not be allowed to spread among the people. There should be no panic, and public health officers will investigate the case. Tourist Police will track down the suspected person in an investigation with the Ministry of Public Health.”

Chote says all provinces – not just Phuket – should have a response plan. Although tourists must go through a mandatory 14 day quarantine upon arrival, Chote says there are some cases where the incubation period for Covid-19 is longer than 14 days.

“There are a variety of cases. Sometimes, the infection does not show after 14 days, or even 15 or 16 days. Each situation is different.”

Recently, a woman in Koh Samui tested positive for the coronavirus 5 days after she was released from a Samut Prakan quarantine facility. Traces of the virus were found on gym equipment the woman used at the quarantine, leading health officials to suspect she was infected before arriving to the island.

“We urge Thai people to not let their guard down. Everyone must wear masks, wash their hands and take care of personal hygiene. This will help prevent them from contracting the disease.”

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Business

Approval sought for multi-billion-baht Phuket medical hub

Maya Taylor

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Approval sought for multi-billion-baht Phuket medical hub | The Thaiger
Mai Khao beach in north Phuket - PHOTO: www.makemytrip.com

Industry officials are seeking the go-ahead for a project to transform over 140 rai of government land in Phuket into a world-leading medical hub. The project is budgeted at 3 – 4 billion baht, depending on which report you read. Kitkong Tantijaraswarodom, from the Federation of Thai Industries, believes the development of a medical and wellness hub in the sub-district of Mai Khao, north Phuket, will help revive the southern island’s battered economy. Phuket has become increasingly reliant on a steady flow of tourists over the past 2 decades.

The southern division of the FTI covers Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Trang, Patthalung, Surat Thani, Ranong, Satun, Chumphon, and Songkhla.

“The FTI will ask the government to green-light the project during the scheduled mobile cabinet meeting on the island on November 3.”

Kitkong says businesspeople in the south are anxious for the government to approve the project, which will provide both locals and foreign medical tourists with state-of-the-art medical care. The facility is expected to include long-term care, hospice and rehabilitation services, in addition to a dental hospital, sports therapy centre, and a medical training school for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and medical laboratory scientists.

The chair of the FTI’s southern chapter is also calling on officials to provide small and medium-sized businesses with additional support, in the form of access to loans, in order to deal with cash shortages.

“In the short term, the FTI wants the government to help SMEs, especially those in the tourism sector.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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