Thais 'ready' if another tsunami hits

BANGKOK - Eight years after Thailand's south-western coast was devastated by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, the country has installed what officials say is the best warning system in the region to mitigate future disasters, a report said Tuesday.

Inadequate warning was blamed for the high number of casualties caused by the tsunami, which killed more than 8,000 Thais and foreign tourists in six southern provinces.

Since then, the National Disaster Warning Centre has set up warning towers and tsunami-detection buoys in the Andaman Sea to respond quickly to any earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

"Within two minutes [after a tsunami swell starts to form], we can calculate the speed and know exactly when it will reach the shore," Song Ekmahachai, chief of the centre’s Disaster Warning and Dissemination Division, said.

He said accurate alerts could be sent to television and radio stations and mobile phones within 15 minutes via satellite and warning towers.

The tsunami preparations also include streamlining bureaucratic protocols to ensure warnings are issued without delay.

"We will no longer need permission from the Television Pool of Thailand or TV station directors," centre director Somsak Khaosuwan was quoted as saying in news reports. "We can interrupt any ongoing television programme."

But he warned that all the preparations would be useless without public participation, and urged coastal residents to take part in training courses to prepare for potential disasters.

"If they do not run away from the big waves, no one can help them," Mr Somsak said. "The only thing that can save you from a huge wave is running away to higher ground as fast as you can."

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Writer: dpa