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Tsunami evacuation drill “hit and miss’

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Tsunami evacuation drill “hit and miss’ | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Andaman Wave 007, the first regional testing of the 79 National Disaster Warning Center (NDWC) tsunami warning towers along the Andaman Coast, was conducted at 9:45 this morning, with mixed results in Phuket.

While impressive mock evacuation and emergency response drills were being staged for the media on the beach at the foot of Soi Bangla in Patong, residents in other parts of the island complained that the sirens and recorded voice warnings were too quiet, with one siren not making any noise at all.

The evacuation at Soi Bangla was reminiscent of the April 2005 evacuation, with helicopters staging offshore maneuvers, rescue workers assisting the elderly, and volunteers pretending to have various handicaps and injuries.

In Kalim, less than two kilometers to the north, the only signs of activity were at Baan Kalim School, where 300 students ran to the third floor of the school from the courtyard in under a minute. Other residents in the area disregarded the siren.

Along most of Patong Beach and Kalim, people said they could hear the siren but could not make out voice-recorded warnings aired in different languages.

People more than a few hundred meters back from the beach said they heard nothing at all, as the sounds were completely drowned out by the noise of passing traffic, strong offshore winds and construction projects.

A group of lifeguards stationed at the beach in front of the Phuket Graceland Resort & Spa said they had heard no warning sounds.

“One thing is certain: if the siren sounds at night there is no way anyone will be able to hear it along Soi Bangla,” said a woman selling tours from a roadside kiosk.

Speaking from NDWC headquarters in Nonthaburi, NDWC Director Dr Smith Dharmasaroja said he was satisfied with the performance of the 79 towers, but was displeased by the failure of local authorities in many areas to carry out evacuation drills.

Told that the warning tower at Baan Ao Yon on Phuket’s east coast had failed to sound, Dr Smith said that it was among 20 towers in the region that were installed by local authorities, not the NDWC.

At Baan Ao Por, about 50 local people took part in evacuation drills, while even fewer took part in Chalong and Kamala.

Chalong resident Jeffrey Powell, 67, a native of the English Midlands, joked, “It could be someone’s kettle boiling over.” He sat in a roadside cafe about 200 meters from the pier, where offshore island speedboat shuttles dock.

“In Patong, they have a proper siren. It’s loud,” he added.

Mr Powell said that many marine vessels have horns that emit similar sounds to the warning siren.

“I know one thing,” said cafe owner Yui Jandarot, 46, whose shop was damaged in the tsunami two years ago. “No one has time to listen to announcements when the wave comes. It comes quickly.

“My children were playing in the sea in front of our shop when the tsunami came. The first wave drove all the boats southeast towards Palai Beach. The second wave was larger and the water came inside the shop, but they still played in the water even with all the junk floating around,” she added.

“They’d have continued playing, too, but their father worried something weird was going on and took them away.”

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Expats

Deceased Phuket expat’s body stuck in hospital due to passport mix-up

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Deceased Phuket expat’s body stuck in hospital due to passport mix-up | The Thaiger

In a nightmarish scenario, a deceased Phuket expat’s body is stuck in a Thai hospital as his step‐daughter claims hospital administrators won’t release the body due to a passport mix‐up.

Gemma Swift, the step‐daughter of 75 year old David Donoghue, who died 2 weeks ago, says she is pleading with embassy staff in Thailand to resolve, what she says, is purely an administrative issue after Donoghue’s passport number at the hospital was from that of an expired one.

Donoghue’s current passport was on file with the British Embassy, but because it did not match what the hospital had, his body has remained at the hospital. Swift says it was something that could easily be corrected and the situation was “horrendous” for the family.

“The British Embassy over in Bangkok, they said that because [the number] was from his current passport, they were unable to change the letter. They have said that they won’t reissue a letter with the passport number that he’s got in the hospital with him.”

She said her family planned to arrange a funeral for him in Thailand, then bring his ashes back to the UK. As he retired to Phuket 15 years ago, her family would then take his ashes back to Thailand, as per his wishes, to scatter them.

However, none of his family members were able to travel to Thailand to be with Donoghue in his final days, as the mandatory 14 day quarantine period upon entering Thailand, would not have allowed them to see him.

“I thought this was a basic human right to be able to give somebody a funeral and I accept that there is always going to be red tape…but please just issue a letter and let us bring him home.”

She said before Covid-19, family members travelled often to Phuket to visit Donoghue, who once worked for the Thai tourist police. She says the entire ordeal has been heartbreaking as her family was unable to say goodbye.

“That on its own was heart breaking, and now to get this two weeks later, to find out we can’t give him a funeral, or get his ashes back, it’s just horrendous.”

“It’s like being on autopilot… once we know we have done everything we can, we can start the grieving process, but at the minute we can’t.”

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said they are assisting Donoghue’s family during the difficult time.

“Our staff are in contact with the local hospital and funeral director to help his family obtain the necessary paperwork to ensure his body is treated in line with their wishes.”

If the situation isn’t fixed, Donoghue’s body will join a mass cremation at the hospital.

SOURCE: BBC News

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Phuket

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

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Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2 | The Thaiger

In today’s Thailand News Today…. The island of Phuket has a firm plan to get its residents vaccinated leading up to an October opening for tourists, the Thai PM backs up his police over last Sunday’s protest violence and Thai Airway’s employee union criticises the changes to employee contracts.

But the plan must be approved by the national government by April, if the province wants to open tourism by October 1. Phuket has a resident population of around 300- 400,000 people.

Before you go rushing off to book your plane tickets we’d stress that this is another in a long list of proposals that have not come to fruition and we’d urge patience until the Government approves the plans.

Meanwhile the island has taken delivery of 4,000 doses of the Chinese Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine. Vaccinations started yesterday, with priority given to 1,500 healthcare workers and 500 “at-risk” officials exposed to Covid-19 patients.

On a broader note… Thailand’s Tourism Minister says he has asked the Public Health Ministry to approve a vaccine passport scheme aimed at reviving Thailand’s devastated tourism sector. According to the Minister, the government is looking to the World Health Organisation to issue a statement on vaccine passports before it makes a final decision on the matter.

The Thai PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha has defended police action against protesters taking part in Sunday’s anti-government rally in Bangkok. Officers from the Metropolitan Police Bureau used tear gas, a water cannon and rubber bullets in an effort to drive protesters back from the PM’s residence. The PM insists the actions were in line with international standards. He says that police did not violate the protesters’ rights.

Thai researchers are claiming that horseshoe bats are not responsible for transmitting the Covid virus to humans. A researcher with the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases-Health Science Centre, says that even though the bats have tested positive for a coronavirus, it is not the strain that is transmissible to humans, and it’s certainly not the virus that causes Covid-19.

As Thai Airways tries to sell new contracts and conditions to its remaining workforce, the labour union of the national carrier is challenging changes to the employment contracts, where Thai Airways employees are being asked to agree to changes as part of the bigger financial rehabilitation program.

But a union representative says the new contracts are unfair because it includes fewer leave days and shorter holidays. The union has filed a complaint with the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare.

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Phuket

Police investigate reports of women’s underwear stolen from Phuket homes

Caitlin Ashworth

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Police investigate reports of women’s underwear stolen from Phuket homes | The Thaiger
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Police in Phuket are looking for a suspect who residents say has been stealing women’s underwear. Surveillance camera footage from a resident’s home shows a teenager driving through a neighbourhood, then stopping and stealing ladies panties that were hanging up to dry.

One resident told Phuket News that numerous residents in Thalang’s Baan Lipon area have reported missing underwear.

“Recently neighbors have been reporting that many items of their underwear have been stolen. Many residents are worried about the man hovering around here trying to steal underwear.”

A man told the Phuket News that his wife’s underwear was stolen and he’s now worried about his family’s safety. Another resident says he’s also concerned.

“As a resident in this area, I am worried about the safety of the local residents. Underwear has been stolen, something else could happen as well.”

In a similar case back in October, a 46 year old man was arrested for allegedly breaking into homes in Ratchaburi and stealing women’s underwear. Police says they seized 70 pairs of panties.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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