Tsunami tower test causes consternation

PHUKET: Officials declared this morning’s test of 12 tsunami warning towers a success, but residents of some parts of the island said they were terrified as they had received no warning of the test, during which full emergency messages were broadcast.

One woman living in Chalong said, “The warning tower kept broadcasting a message telling us to get out and run for higher ground. Cars were roaring up the hill past our house. It was very frightening.”

“In the end, I called my husband and he told me that it was just a drill,” she said.

The Gazette was at Saphan Hin for the test there, during which the broadcast message, in English, was, “Attention please! Attention please! There are tidal waves from storm winds. Please leave the beach as far as possible for higher ground urgently.”

The Mandarin version mentioned a “typhoon”.

Arun Keodsom, Chief of the Phuket Office for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (ODPM), apologized to those frightened by the test.

“I want to apologize to people [who were panicked]. We informed the tambon administration organizations, the district offices, the Phuket Provincial Public Relations Office, and the press and TV stations about the test,” he said.

“I told the NDWC [the National Disaster Warning Center in Nonthaburi, outside Bangkok] to broadcast ‘This is a drill’ at the beginning of each warning. But they didn’t do that. They broadcast that message just once, right at the beginning of the test,” he added.

That apart, he said, the test was a success. “We tested all 12 warning towers. The trial was satisfactory.”

In addition to the 12 tested this morning, four more warning towers are in various stages of construction.

Vice-Governor Worapot Ratthasima told the Gazette that the tower on Koh Lone, off Chalong, is ready, but has not yet been linked to the NDWC.

Two more towers are to be built at Nai Harn and Kata Noi, funded by donations from Thai TV channel iTV. They are expected to be completed in March.

“Recently, Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura went to Koh Racha. He observed that this is a tsunami danger area and assigned me to contact iTV to request funding for one more tower.”

K. Arun said that the budget has already been approved by iTV and the tower will be completed in April.

Phuket News

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