PM: Disaster warning system “inefficient”


BANGKOK, Dec 26 – Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Monday commented that the natural disaster warning system is “inefficient” as the eastern shoreline was pounded by high waves, forcing prompt evacuation of local residents.

The premier reacted as southern provinces along the Gulf of Thailand were hit by unusually high 2-4 metre waves on Sunday and seawater spilled over and damaged the residents’ houses and cars along the beaches.

Ms Yingluck said she has instructed deputy premier and interior minister Yongyuth Vichaidit to inspect the wave-hit areas and governors were told to provide assistance to the affected people.

So far, the premier said, six provinces were declared disaster zones. The designation allows their governors to seek funds to release aid to the people immediately based on relief measures adopted for flood victims.

The premier said the advance warning system, however, was inadequate because the public can be warned only when an incident occurs. In addition, there are four warning-related agencies which should integrate their work so that they will get accurate information on the disaster.

Meanwhile, Smith Dhammasaroj, chairman of the Foundation of National Disaster Warning Council, on Monday criticised what he described as a failure of the existing warning system for residents living along the coastal areas when the high waves hit the eastern coast on Sunday.

“It’s very fortunate that no one was killed in the incident,” said Mr Smith.

Mr Smith commented as he attended an event to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Dec 26, 2004 disaster that hit Thailand’s six Andaman coastal provinces.

He said the tsunami happened seven years ago but the implementation on the natural disaster warning system has gone to nowhere following the changes of the governments and concerned officials.

Three to four metre high waves continued in the Gulf of Thailand on Monday, forcing residents of Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Pak Panang district to move belongings to other places while some villagers in Laem Talumpuk were evacuated to safe areas

Songkhla’s Ranot district also faced the similar situation. Some 60 villagers were evacuated after high waves damaged their homes.

In Prachuab Khiri Khan, the authorities in the seaside resort town of Hua Hin warned tourists not to swim during these couple of days for their safety after 4-metre high waves struck the beaches in several districts.

The Department of Meteorological reported that high waves remain in the Gulf of Thailand for the next couple of days as a result of the strong northeast monsoon but the strength of the wind-wave is weakened.

The Royal Thai Navy’s Hydrographic Department described Sunday’s phenomenon as a “cold surge” or “eastern monsoon surge” which happens when strong winds sweep seawater into coastal areas, but the Navy said the situation will ease in the next three or four days.