Warnings inadequate and often ignored

Authorities admit they could have done more to warn flood victims, but the warnings they gave were often ignored in areas were heavy flooding was unusual.

The owners of these cars either did not hear the flood warnings or chose not to believe them.


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Warning system faulted

The 2004 tsunami which killed more than 5000 people here in Thailand and 200,000 more throughout the region prompted calls for a much improved disaster warning system.

The Thai government responded by setting up the National Disaster Warning Centre. Billions of baht were spent on installing 300 warning towers in disaster-prone provinces.

The NDWC was also supposed to be the central agency for monitoring all types of natural disasters and issuing early warnings to the public and local agencies, who could then convey the message to villagers in areas at risk.

Clearly, the system didn’t work as planned over the past few weeks. There have been numerous complaints from villagers thoughout the flooded areas that they weren’t given sufficient warning.

NDWC chief Somsak Khaosuwan yesterday conceded the agency could have done more to help avert the disasters in many parts of the country over recent weeks.

But he also said there are limits to what the NDWC can do under present circumstances.

‘‘We know the public expects us to do better, but we have many limitations. The centre has only 10 permanent staff. We need support from other agencies to warn the public of natural disasters.’’

He also pointed out that warnings are only effective if people believe them and take action. He said many villagers had ignored recent flood warnings, believing their homes were safe.

Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department’s deputy chief Srisombat Pornprasit agreed.

Mr Srisombat said the agency had warned residents in flood-hit areas against possible deluges but most villagers underestimated the situation.

‘‘Many of them refused to evacuate,’’ he said. ‘‘Some even got angry at authorities who tried to help evacuate them to safer places.’’

This was especially true in areas where serious flooding was rare.

‘‘No one would have thought that Pak Thong Chai district [in Nakhon Ratchasima] would be inundated. That’s why the locals were not prepared for the flooding,’’ he said.

Everyone will have to do better next time.

Adapted from a story in today’s Bangkok Post.

warning – an action or statement telling someone of a possible problem or danger คำเตือน, สัญญาณเตือนถึงเหตุร้าย
inadequate – not enough, or not good enough for a particular purpose อย่างไม่เพียงพอ
ignore – to fail to pay attention toเพิกเฉย
authorities – people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
admit – to agree that something is true, especially when you are unhappy, sorry or surprised about it  ยอมรับ
victim – someone who has been affected by a bad situation, such as an illness or an accident เหยื่อผู้เคราะห์ร้าย
fault – to find something bad or wrong in a person or thing; to blame  ตำหนิ
prompt – to cause someone to take action กระตุ้น
improve – to make better  ทำให้ดีขึ้น
disaster – something very bad that happens and causes a lot of damage or kills a lot of people  ความหายนะ  ภัยพิบัติ
respond – to say or do something as a reaction to something that has been said or done ตอบสนอง, ตอบรับ
-prone – (suffix) likely to experience a particular problem more often than is usual ที่มีแนวโน้ม
monitor – to regularly check something จับตาดู เฝ้าระมัดระวัง
issue – to announce something officially ออกประกาศ
convey – to communicate something; to express a thought, feeling or idea so that it is understood by other people สื่อไปถึง, สื่อสาร
message – a piece of written or spoken information that you send to someone, especially when you cannot speak to them directly  ข่าวสาร, ข้อความ
at risk – in danger ตกอยู่ในความเสี่ยง
numerous – many มากมาย
complaint – when someone says that something is wrong or not satisfactory การร้องเรียน
sufficient – enough เพียงพอ
concede – to admit that something is true ยอมรับว่าถูก
avert – to prevent something bad or harmful from happening ป้องกันไม่ให้เกิด
recent – happening or starting a short time ago  เร็วๆ นี้
limitation – a disadvantage or weak point that makes someone or something less effective ข้อจำกัด
circumstances – facts or conditions that affect a situation เหตุการณ์แวดล้อม
the public – people in general ประชาชน, สาธารณชน, มหาชน
permanent – happening or existing for a long time or for all time in the future ถาวร 
effective – producing the result that was intended ได้ผลดี
prevention – preventing something bad from happening การป้องกันภ้ย
mitigation – a reduction in the harmful effects of something  บรรเทา  ผ่อนคลาย
residents – people who live in a particular area ประชาชนที่อาศัยในท้องที่
deluge – a sudden, very heavy rainfall or a sudden flow of a large amount of water ฝนตกหนัก น้ำปริมาณมาก
underestimate – to think that something is less important  or serious than it really is ประเมินต่ำกว่า
refuse – to say you will not do something that someone has asked you to do ปฏิเสธ
evacuate – to cause to leave a place because it is not safe เคลื่อนย้ายออกจาก
authorities – people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
rare – not happening very often เกิดขึ้นได้ยาก
inundate – to flood; to submerge ท่วม, ทำให้จมลงใต้น้ำ
locals – people who live in a particular place ชาวบ้าน

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About the author

columnist
Writer: Terry Fredrickson
Position: Education Marketing and Support Manager