Tributes paid at tsunami memorials

Tributes paid at tsunami memorials

Doubts over warning system, 15 years on

Wreaths are hung on a memorial wall at Mai Khao Cemetery in Phuket's Thalang district to mark the 15th anniversary of the Dec 26 tsunami which killed more than 5,000 people along the Andaman coast in southern Thailand. (Photo by Achadtaya Chuenniran)
Wreaths are hung on a memorial wall at Mai Khao Cemetery in Phuket's Thalang district to mark the 15th anniversary of the Dec 26 tsunami which killed more than 5,000 people along the Andaman coast in southern Thailand. (Photo by Achadtaya Chuenniran)

Survivors and relatives of victims of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami gathered in Andaman coastal provinces on Thursday, where 369 victims still lie unidentified in Bang Maruan cemetery in Phangnga province.

Public memorials took place yesterday morning at Mai Khao Cemetery in Phuket's Thalang district, at the Tsunami Memorial Park at Ban Nam Khem in Phangnga's Takua Pa district, and at Moo Koh Phi Phi in tambon Ao Nang, Krabi -- in the hardest-hit areas.

Participants observed a minute's silence in memory of more than 5,000 people in Thailand who perished when the tsunami struck countries on the rim of the Indian Ocean on Dec 26, 2004.

Buddhist, Christian and Islamic memorial services paid testament to the victims' various faiths. Forty-five wreaths of white flowers were placed at Mai Khao Cemetery in tribute to victims from 45 countries who died in Thailand's southern provinces.

In Ban Nam Khem, white roses were placed in front of a photo of Poom Jensen, the son of Princess Ubolratana. Poom was killed when the tsunami engulfed Khao Lak in the district.

Rated as among the world's deadliest natural disasters, the tsunami killed 227,898 people in 14 countries.

Despite the passage of time, Thai authorities are still unable to put names to 369 bodies which have lain buried in Bang Maruan cemetery for the last decade and a half. Since 2004, the cemetery has been used as a forensic centre for the identification of victims.

In Thailand, the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) unit of police and forensic experts from 30 countries was able to identify more than 3,600 bodies in under two years, the largest and most successful project of its kind.

The unnamed 369 victims are believed to have been illegal migrant workers. Also buried at Bang Maruan are 25 unclaimed bodies identified in 2017 as Myanmar workers.

Meanwhile, despite efforts to improve Thailand's tsunami warning system, locals are still questioning its reliability.

On Wednesday, Krabi villagers complained that the siren stopped working during an evacuation drill, while the siren on Koh Rok in Moo Koh Lanta Marine National Park also failed.

Siriporn Sookying, head of Krabi Province's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, said staff were checking 32 tsunami-warning towers in five Krabi districts. Thailand has two buoys, located 300 kilometres and 900km off the coast, to transmit tsunami warning data to towers in vulnerable coastal areas. The warning system has been tested every Wednesday for the past several years.


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