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Phuket Gazette World News: Chinese, Australian ships try to verify potential ‘pings’ from Malaysia jet

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Chinese, Australian ships try to verify potential ‘pings’ from Malaysia jet
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Chinese and Australian ships hunting for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner have picked up separate acoustic signals in different parts of a vast Indian Ocean search area and are trying to verify if one could be from the plane’s black box recorders.

Australian search authorities said on Sunday a Chinese patrol vessel, the Haixun 01, had picked up a fleeting “ping” signal twice in recent days in waters west of Perth, near where investigators believe Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went down on March 8.

More planes and ships were being sent to assist in that area. Meanwhile, Australia’s HMAS Ocean Shield had reported a separate “acoustic event” some 300 nautical miles away.

The Ocean Shield is carrying sophisticated U.S. Navy equipment designed to pick up signals sent from the black boxes, which may hold the key to why the aircraft ended up thousands of kilometres off course.

“We are treating each of them seriously. We need to ensure before we leave any of those areas that this does not have any connection with MH370,” Retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the operation, told a media conference in Perth.

A black box detector deployed by the Haixun 01 picked up the signal with a frequency of 37.5kHz per second – the same as emitted by flight recorders – at about 25 degrees south and 101 degrees east, Xinhua reported on Saturday.

Australian search authorities said such a signal would be consistent with a black box, but both they and Xinhua stressed there was no conclusive evidence linking it to the Boeing 777.

“The 37.5kHz is the specific frequency that these locator pingers operate on,” said Anish Patel, president of Sarasota, Florida-based Dukane Seacom, which made the black box locator.

“It’s a very unique frequency, typically not found in background ocean noise,” such as whales or other marine mammals, he told Reuters.

A U.S. government source close to the MH370 investigation said on Sunday that the “pings” have not yet been validated. The source also said that no additional, trustworthy information had turned up to explain why the plane disappeared.

Southern area back in focus

Houston said analysis of earlier satellite data had again led investigators to refine the search area towards the southern part of the corridor.

“The area of the highest probability is, what we think, the southern part where Haixun 01 is operating. That is why we are really interested in the two acoustic encounters that Haixun 01 has had.”

The water was around 4,500 metres (14,764 ft) deep in that part of the search area, Houston added.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was “hopeful but by no means certain” that the reported pulse signals were related to MH370.

“This is the most difficult search in human history. We are searching for an aircraft which is at the bottom of a very deep ocean and it is a very, very wide search area,” Abbott told reporters in Tokyo, where he is on a visit.

Up to a dozen planes and 13 ships will be scouring three separate areas about 2,000 km (1,243 miles) northwest of Perth, Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre said on Sunday.

Sonar equipment

Authorities have not ruled out mechanical problems as a cause of the plane’s disappearance, but say the evidence, including loss of communications, suggests it was deliberately diverted.

Malaysian authorities have faced heavy criticism, particularly from China, for mismanaging the search and holding back information. Most of the 227 passengers were Chinese.

Malaysia said on Saturday it had launched a formal investigation into the plane’s disappearance that would include experts from Australia, the United States, China, Britain and France.

Normally, a formal air safety investigation is not launched until wreckage is found. But there have been concerns that Malaysia’s informal investigations to date have lacked the legal standing of an official inquiry convened under U.N. rules.

Under International Civil Aviation Organisation rules, the country where the aircraft is registered leads the investigation when the incident takes place in international waters.

Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the investigation would comprise three groups: one would examine maintenance records, structures and systems; an “operations” group would study flight recorders, operations and meteorology; and a “medical and human factors” group would look into psychology, pathology and survival.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

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Hua Hin

Hua Hin to submit October re-opening plan for government approval

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Flickr/Prince Roy

The seaside town of Hua Hin, on the Gulf of Thailand, is working on a proposal to welcome vaccinated foreign tourists from October. Krod Rojanastien, from the Thai Chamber of Commerce, says the Hua Hin Recharge campaign aims to include the resort town in the government’s re-opening plan. He says the area has already earned a reputation for wellness holidays and being a popular seaside destination just a few hours from Bangkok.

According to a Bangkok Post report, the Hua Hin Recharge campaign includes Hua Hin municipality and the district of Nong Kae, an area of around 86 square kilometres, with 182 registered hotels. Adopting similar criteria to the Phuket sandbox model, the campaign is targeting vaccinated foreigners flying into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport or by private jet to Hua Hin airport. All international visitors would be subject to a Covid-19 test on arrival and would need to download the Thailand Plus tracing app prior to being transported to their hotel.

Krod says tourism operators are hoping to offer tour packages, as well as partnering with their counterparts in places like Phuket and Pattaya, to swap visitors once tourists have completed 7 days in Hua Hin. He says if the re-opening is approved, local operators hope to receive around 100,000 foreign visitors, primarily from countries like China, Japan, Germany, Scandinavia, and the UK. In total, these numbers should result in 1.2 billion baht in revenue.

However, as with elsewhere, everything hinges on the vaccine rollout.

“In order to achieve re-opening, inoculations in Hua Hin must start by June 1 and continue until September 30 with the number of required doses needed being 353,498.”

The Tourism and Sports Ministry has already given the Hua Hin Recharge campaign the go-ahead, on condition that people in areas such as Pran Buri and Cha-am, in the neighbouring province of Phetchaburi, are also vaccinated. The proposal will now go before a meeting of the National Tourism Policy Committee next week, before finally being submitted to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Chiang Mai

Officials in Chiang Mai and Hua Hin express concern amid rapid rise in infections

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Wikimedia

Health officials in the northern province of Chiang Mai and the western province of Prachuap Khiri Khan are on high alert amid a surge in Covid-19 cases. Prachuap Khiri Khan has now reported 334 cases, with infections rising by 141 yesterday. The outbreak is primarily centred around the Hua Hin district, with provincial health official Suriya Khuharat saying most people contracted the virus after attending a concert at the Maya Exclusive Pub on March 30.

Anyone who is concerned they may be infected can receive a free Covid-19 test at either Prachuap Khiri Khan or Hua Hin hospitals. The Bangkok Post reports that, in the last few days, around 500 people a day have visited Hua Hin Hospital for testing.

Hua Hin district and health officials have filed a police complaint against the owners of the Maya Pub, who are accused of violating the emergency decree and disease prevention measures. The March 30 concert is thought to be behind the surge in infections in the seaside district, with over 90% of cases linked to the pub. The chain of transmission is believed to have originated with 1 customer who attended the concert after travelling from Bangkok. The woman is an employee at the Krystal Club in Thong Lor, itself at the centre of a Covid cluster.

Meanwhile, in Chiang Mai, health officials say a surge in infections, now exceeding 200 a day, is causing great concern. Yesterday, the northern province reported 260 new cases, with public health chief Chatuchai Maneerat admitting the surge could lead to a shortage of hospital beds.

“Currently we have 1,000 beds in the province’s field hospital and that may not be sufficient. So, the province’s communicable disease control panel has decided to add another 1,000 beds.”

Despite the rise in infections, the Department of Disease Control says there are currently no plans for a national lockdown, given that other provinces are not as severely affected. Opas Karnkawinpong from the DDC says the most important thing is for people to work from home and avoid social gatherings until at least the end of April.

“People are asking if there will be a lockdown. I’d say that a lockdown is the last resort if virus transmissions show no signs of letting-up. Activities that draw large crowds pose the greatest risk and should be avoided until the end of this month at least.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Hua Hin

Health officials say pubs, nightlife venues the new ground zero for third wave

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: mtgf93 / Flickr

Covid-19 cases continue to rise in Thailand, with 967 new infections reported yesterday, when there were just 26 at the start of the month. Health officials are in no doubt where the surge is coming from, pointing the finger at nightlife venues. A rise in infections in Hua Hin appears to back up the theory first floated after a cluster of infections was linked to Bangkok nightlife.

The Bangkok Post reports that the western province of Prachuap Khiri Khan has recorded 193 cases since the start of the month. 142 of them are in Hua Hin and officials believe they can be traced back to 1 “super-spreader” individual. A 26 year old woman, employed at the Krystal Club in Bangkok, travelled to Hua Hin with her boyfriend on March 30. At the time of her journey, she was showing no sign of infection.

On her first night in Hua Hin, she went to the Maya Exclusive Pub with 7 friends and family members. The next day, she developed a high fever, and the following day, April 1, was informed that her colleagues at the Krystal Club had tested positive for Covid-19. The woman went to a Hua Hin hospital to be tested and was confirmed as infected on April 3.

On April 4, she was admitted to Hua Hin hospital, but by then, the virus was already spreading in Hua Hin. The woman’s boyfriend tested positive, as did 140 people in Hua Hin, and 52 in other districts. The Public Health Ministry says the infections can be traced back to the woman’s attendance at the Maya pub on March 30.

Officials are using this example to illustrate the role pubs and entertainment venues play in this third wave of the virus. They say at least 137 nightlife establishments in at least 15 provinces are behind new surges of infection. Leading virologist Yong Poovorwan from Chulalongkorn University says the development is all the more concerning, given that the original cluster linked to Bangkok nightlife is the B117 variant, which is far more contagious.

Meanwhile, Opas Karnkawinpong from the Department of Disease Control accuses partygoers of not cooperating with contact-tracing officials, which makes controlling the spread of infection more difficult.

“Many pubgoers do not give us information until two or three days have passed.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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