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Tsunami warning system improvements stalled

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PHUKET: Plans for Thailand to launch two more “tsunameters” off the Andaman coastline to improve its tsunami warning system capability have become bogged down by red tape and technical problems, leaving only one direct detection unit in place as the fourth anniversary of the 2004 disaster nears.

Dr Smith Dharmasaroja, who chairs the committee that directs the Nonthaburi-based National Disaster Warning Center (NDWC), last weekend told the Gazette that the NDWC was budgeted 165 million baht for the two tsunami direct detection units in 2007.

When deployed about 250 to 300 kilometers off Phuket, they will greatly enhance the NDWC’s ability to detect and warn of an impending tsunami, he said.

Technically known as Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (Dart) monitoring systems, the state-of-the-art tsunameters consist of a pressure sensor on the ocean floor that relays data to a surface buoy equipped with satellite technology.

The units enable national agencies, such as the NDWC, to detect a tsunami and issue a warning in real time. They also eliminate the need for expensive, panic-inducing false alarms that can occur when warnings are issued based on seismic data alone.

Unfortunately, the contractor the NDWC is negotiating with to provide the two tsunameters is unable to meet the technical requirements that Thailand and India agreed to in their effort to set up a regional system, Dr Smith said.

Describing himself as “only an employee”, Dr Smith said the authority to move forward with the purchase rests with the ICT Ministry and its Meteorology Department, which must first approve all technical aspects and sign off on procurement.

Two “tsunameters” have been deployed in the Indian Ocean since the tsunami. The first, launched by Thailand and the US on December 1, 2006, in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is still functioning normally and providing date to the NDWC.

Last year Dr Smith confirmed the suspicions of a Gazette reporter that the location of the first tsunameter was too far west of the subduction zone where the last tsunami originated to be of real benefit to Phuket should another tsunami-producing earthquake occur there, because by the time the west-moving tsunami wave reaches the sensor, its east-moving counterpart would already have reached Phuket beaches.

However, Dr Smith described as inaccurate reports attributed to Dr Plodprasop Surasawadee who, as assistant minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, was quoted by a Bangkok-based English-language daily in May as saying that the first Thai tsunameter was not working at all.

Jakarta-based David McKinnie, of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) serving as a coordinator for the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System (IOTWS), also confirmed that the Thai tsunameter is still functioning normally.

“It is operating and providing full services to Thailand as well as other Indian Ocean nations,” he wrote the Gazette in an email. He encouraged readers to confirm this by visiting the website www.ndbc.noaa.gov/dart.shtml that displays monitoring data from the Thai station and many others from its global network.

He agreed, however, that the Dart unit needs better maintenance.”Under our agreement with Thailand, NDWC was to establish a maintenance contract for the system by December 2006. These systems need regular maintenance and the Thai station is long overdue for such routine work. We are concerned that no agreement is in place, though we understand NDWC and the Thai Meteorological Department are making progress in this area,” he wrote.

The second tsunameter, further south off the coast of Sumatra, is broken, he admitted.

“The second tsunameter deployed in partnership with Indonesia in September, 2007, was providing data to NDWC until it was vandalized by fishermen in March, 2008. We are working with Indonesian authorities to redeploy a tsunameter there as soon as possible,” he said.

“We know that NDWC is planning to purchase two additional tsunameters as well and that NDWC has issued a solicitation for procurement. Although we are aware of other elements of the Thai system, I do not have good information about NDWC plans for developing the Thai tsunami warning system or progress toward NDWC goals in this area,” he said.

Mr McKinnie also refutes claims that the location where the first Thai-US Dart unit was deployed was poorly chosen. In fact the siting is nearly optimal, he said.

“One of the basic siting considerations is that tsunami waves travel very fast in deep water and much more slowly in shallow water. The waters between Phuket and the Andamans are relatively shallow. The water from the source to the Dart station is relatively deep. A tsunami would reach the Dart station 1.5 to two hours before it would reach Phuket, thus the station provides a potential warning lead time of 1.5 to two hours. A tsunameter sited closer to Phuket would provide less, not more, lead time,” he wrote.

In a related development, Dr Smith confirmed that he is very worried about the possibility of a disaster in low-lying coastal parts of Bangkok and Samut Prakarn provinces should a storm similar to Cyclone Nargis, which devastated Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta region, make landfall and cause a storm surge there.

If such a tragedy did occur it would most likely happen between August and November, he said.

“It’s my duty to warn people of the danger. Whether or not they choose to believe me is up to their own judgment,” said Dr Smith.

As a former director of the Meteorological Department, Dr Smith lobbied the government of the time, in vain, to address the dangers of a tsunami  years before the 2004 disaster.

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Phuket Monopoly game creators need your help with token designs

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Phuket Monopoly game creators need your help with token designs | The Thaiger

Phuket is set to get its own version of the popular game MONOPOLY and its creators want your help with ideas for the specialised tokens. ‘MONOPOLY: Phuket Edition’ was announced last month which will see the street art on the board game replaced with that of famous places around Thailand’s famous tourist destination. Such art will include beaches, hotels, shops, markets and other popular attractions.

Jennifer Lau from Winning Moves UK, is producing the game under official license from Monopoly brand owners, Hasbro. Lau says the tokens will feature a holiday theme. The token’s departure from the original theme of wheelbarrows, boots, iron, and thimbles as well as popular sports cars and hats.

“We have had a wealth of emails and suggestions coming in for Phuket, so thank you for each and every single one of them! We are taking them all into consideration whilst putting together the design of the game.”

“We wanted to change the tokens so that they would be more suitable for an island like Phuket, where so many people like to go on holiday to.”

“There will be six themed tokens that replace the original and we want to hear your suggestions for what these tokens should be!”

Bangkok has already been featured in the Monopoly game as it came out for purchase back in 2018.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket holds vaccine administration rehearsal as it waits for green light

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Phuket holds vaccine administration rehearsal as it waits for green light | The Thaiger

Phuket is rehearsing procedures to ready themselves for the Covid‐19 vaccine administration green light. A rehearsal at Vachira Hospital’s Lan Muang Khao open area was held late yesterday to iron out any kinks in the administration process. Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong watched over the procedures along with other health officials.

Pichet says the first vaccine round of 4,000 doses should arrive early in March, with the 2nd and 3rd set of doses, 16,000 and 48,000 respectively, to arrive in April and May.

“The government recognises the importance of the affected areas of the economy where the epidemic situation of COVID-19 must be stopped and has allocated the COVID-19 vaccine to Phuket Province to build herd immunity, restore the economy, return a smile to Thailand.”

“We are preparing to COVID-19 mass vaccination to build confidence among the people that they will receive a quality, safe vaccine and to receive follow-up care after it has been administered.”

Pichet says Phuket’s first target groups to receive the vaccine include medical and public health personnel, with others on the frontlines to come next.

Then, workers aged 18-59 years old, people with underlying diseases including chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, cerebrovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity will follow.

“People with severe neurological conditions and pregnant women should be wary of taking the vaccine, as well as women who are breastfeeding and people with immunodeficiency.”

The procedure to get vaccinated starts by recipients undergoing screening by having their temperatures taken, and then sanitising their hands before entering the administration area. Then, they will move their way through a series of steps, detailed below:

Step 1: Register

Step 2: Record weight and blood pressure

Step 3: Pass the screening process by have their medical history and risk assessment recorded and then signing a consent to receive the vaccine

Step 4: Wait for vaccination

Step 5: Vaccination

Step 6: Rest for 30 minutes, while being observed for symptoms. Then scan the official Line account “หมอพร้อม” (“Doctor Ready”)

Step 7: Pass a final check before receiving a document confirming vaccination

Pichet says health workers will follow up with vaccine recipients after 1,7, and 30 days from being vaccinated to monitor any adverse reactions.

Those who are set to receive their second jab will have appointments made for them. Those who receive the Sinovac vaccine will be scheduled to have their second doses 2 to 4 weeks after the first. AstraZeneca vaccine receivers will be scheduled for their second doses 10 to 12 weeks after the first.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Phuket

Phuket police officer charged with attempted murder for shooting and critically injuring a noodle vendor

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket police officer charged with attempted murder for shooting and critically injuring a noodle vendor | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Siamrath

The drunk, off-duty police officer in Phuket who has caught on camera shooting and beating a noodle vendor on Bangla Road is now facing attempted murder charges as well as charges of carrying a firearm in public without a necessary reason and firing a weapon in a public area. The commander of the Phuket police station said he ordered investigators to prosecute the officer Pornthep Channarong with every criminal charge that can be applied.

The officer had gotten into an altercation just before dawn yesterday and shot a young vendor who was walking by. Surveillance camera footage show the 25 year old suddenly falling to the ground after being shot. The officer walks up and shoots the vendor at a close range, but it appears the second shot did not hit the vendor. The officer also slapped the vendor in the face, picked him up and shoved him over, and then kicked him as he lay on the ground.

The vendor has a 4 year old daughter and 3 month old son. His wife says normally he works as a motorbike driver, but he was helping his mother selling noodles. He was shot while he was walking back from collecting a noodle bowl, she says. The vendor is in critical condition and being cared for at Vachira Phuket Hospital’s intensive care unit. He’s in need of Type B blood.

“For his condition, the doctor told me that the bullet went through his lung. He lost a lot of blood. We need a lot of Type B blood for him.”

A disciplinary investigation into the incident was launched by police and Pornthep was officially dismissed from the Royal Thai Police force. Region 8 Police Commander Kitrat Panpetch says the incident does not reflect the police force in Phuket.

“The incident was caused by an officer who did something wrong that our organisation does not want. We are a big organisation with more than 200,000 officers under our control. Our officers are not all bad like this.”

Phuket Provincial Police Commander Pornsak Nuannu says he has reminded the police chiefs across the island to discuss reasons for carrying firearms in public.

“Carrying firearms is to prevent any type of crime that may happen, not to commit a crime by themselves like this incident. If I see any police doing such a thing, I will decisively proceed in terms of both officer discipline and criminal charges.”

SOURCE: Phuket News

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