Search

 

Cablegate: Corrected Version: Thailand's National Disaster

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 004796

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR OES/PCI ASTEWART
DEPT FOR EAP/BCLTV MHIGGINS
DEPT FOR OES/O/OA
DEPT FOR IO/LAGON/ROEDER/BOOTH
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO NOAA DAS BREMMAN
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO OSTP/GWHITNEY/DIRECTOR MARBURGER
USAID FOR ANE/AA JKUNDER, ANE/ESA, OFDA
KATHMANDU FOR KOCH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TPHY TSPL PREL SENV EAID KSCA TH
SUBJECT: CORRECTED VERSION: THAILAND'S NATIONAL DISASTER
WARNING CENTER PASSES FIRST REAL TEST OF TSUNAMI EARLY
WARNING CAPABILITY

This is a revised version of Bangkok 4777, correcting an
error in the timeline in paragraph 2.

1. Summary: Thailand's new National Disaster Warning Center
(NDWC) issued a "Tsunami Watch" immediately following the
7.2 Richter magnitude earthquake near Nicobar Island in the
Indian Ocean late at night on July 24. The "watch" prompted
local officials to evacuate residents and tourists in some
coastal areas. About ninety minutes after the initial watch
was issued, the NDWC issued an "all clear." This first real
test of Thailand's early warning system demonstrated a much
improved capability than existed prior to the December 26
tsunami. End summary.

SIPDIS

Tsunami Alert Timeline

SIPDIS
----------------------
2. At 10:42 p.m. (Thailand time) on July 24, an earthquake
measuring 7.2 on the Richter Scale took place about 135 km
west of the Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean, 665
kilometers west of Thailand's Andaman Coast. At 10:52 p.m.,
the NDWC received its first communication that an earthquake
had occurred - in the form of an e-mail from the Malaysian
Meteorological Agency. Within minutes, the NDWC received
further information on the earthquake from its own computer
systems monitoring the websites of the U.S. Geological
Service, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (Hawaii), the
Japan Meteorological Agency, the Europe Meteorological
Service Center, and GEOFON of Germany, and Thailand's own
Meteorological Department, which has inland earthquake
detection centers.

3. By 11:00 p.m., within ten minutes of first learning about
the quake, NDWC staff were notifying the Prime Minister,
governors, local authorities, and Provincial Disaster
Prevention Offices in six Andaman Coast Provinces by phone.
At 11:10 p.m., from a booth located in the NDWC hooked up
with a special link to pre-empt Thai television channels,
Dr. Plodprasop Suraswadi, head of the NDWC, issued a
"Tsunami Watch" on live television. Within the next hour,
Dr. Plodprasop appeared on television twice more with
updated information, including the estimated time, 12:12
a.m., of when a tsunami, if one existed, might hit
Thailand's shores.

4. Although Plodprasop's announcement was a "tsunami watch"
rather than a "tsunami warning," the governors of Phuket,
Phang Nga, and Krabi Provinces (hard hit by last December's
tsunami) took no chances. Three newly constructed warning

SIPDIS
towers on the beach in Phuket were activated, and the order
was given to evacuate local residents and tourists to inland
areas. In all, more than three thousand people in high-risk
areas were evacuated. At least 5000 other people living
along the coast fled their homes to higher ground as a
result of the television broadcasts. Although one traffic
accident with injuries was reported and one newspaper
described the area as "chaotic," for the most part, the
evacuations were orderly carried out and without incident.

5. At 1:20 a.m., after reviewing data on the websites that
indicated the quake was caused by a lateral plate movement
rather than a vertical plate movement (only vertical plate
movements cause tsunamis) and after Thailand's single tidal
gauge device detected no indication of any big waves, the
NDWC cancelled the tsunami watch, and people returned to
their homes.
6. In an interview July 25, Prime Minister Thaksin said he
was "satisfied" with the implementation of the early warning
procedures. According to Thai newspapers, local residents
of the coastal area also feel the warning system worked
well, and that they feel safer.

Thailand's Early Warning System
-------------------------------
7. Thailand's NDWC was opened May 30, five months after the
devastating December 26 tsunami which killed more than 5300
people on Thailand's Andaman Coast. Supplied with $750,000
worth of communication equipment from a group of American
software firms, it monitors a number of international
scientific websites and collects seismic data from numerous
sources with an aim to send out a warning within fifteen
minutes of receiving information about a possible tsunami.
The NDWC has the authority to issue alerts on television
without seeking prior permission from the Prime Minister or
any other governmental authority.

8. The NDWC has three categories of immediate tsunami alerts
based the Richter Scale magnitude of the earthquake: An
"Advisory" is issued for earthquakes measuring between 5.0
and 6.9; a "Watch" is issued for quakes measuring between
7.0 and 7.7; and a "Warning" is issued for any quake
measuring 7.8 or greater. The alerts can be modified or
cancelled based on additional information received, such as
whether the cause of the earthquake was a lateral or
vertical plate movement or what type of wave activity is
detected by tidal gauges. Thailand has one tidal gauge in
operation near Similan Island and wishes to purchase
additional buoys from the United States.
9. Provincial Disaster Prevention Offices, under the
Ministry of Interior, in consultation with the provincial
governors, decide whether or not to evacuate coastal areas,
based on information from the NDWC. A large-scale
evacuation drill was carried out in Phuket in April.
Construction of 62 warning towers with loudspeakers to
broadcast evacuation instructions is ongoing at various
beach locations, but so far only three have been completed.

Comment
-------
10. The first notification from Malaysia demonstrated a
degree of international coordination that did not exist
prior to last December. The NDWC mobilized with
extraordinary speed, alerting local officials within 10
minutes and broadcasting a live television alert within 20
minutes of first learning of the earthquake. Local
officials evacuated thousands of people and returned them to
their homes in a relatively orderly fashion. Thailand
passed this first real test of its tsunami early warning
system - from detection to communication to evacuation -
with unqualified success.
Boyce

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Covid: 250 Groups Urge WTO Chief To Ditch Pharma-Friendly Approach And Embrace Vaccine Patent Waiver

by Jake Johnson, staff writer An international coalition of 250 civil society groups on Tuesday urged the head of the World Trade Organization to embrace a temporary suspension of coronavirus vaccine-related patents, warning against pursuit of a voluntary ... More>>

Samoa’s Stunning Election Result: On The Verge Of A New Ruling Party For The First Time In 40 Years

Tamasailau Suaalii Sauni , University of Auckland and Patricia A. O'Brien , Georgetown University Samoan politics is on a knife edge. After the country voted in general elections on April 9, counting so far has resulted in a dead heat between the two ... More>>

Timor-Leste: UN Agencies Support Response In Wake Of Deadly Floods

United Nations agencies in Timor-Leste are supporting response efforts, as floods and landslides left widespread damage across the country, including in the capital, Dili. According to media reports, at least 21 people died in the country and many ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

C40: UN Secretary-General's Remarks To Meeting With Leading Mayors Supported By Cities

UN Secretary-General's remarks to Meeting with Leading Mayors Supported by C40 Cities: “Advancing a Carbon-Neutral, Resilient Recovery for Cities and Nations” 16 April 2021 Thank you for joining me today, and for your commitment and leadership. Cities ... More>>

Awake At Night: S3-Episode 21: There Is Hope

Brazzaville visit to CSI Pilote du Diabete with Health workers at a local government clinic. 2018 - Photo: ©CSI/Dr. Soumya Swaminathan 'When it comes to a pandemic, it really needs global collaboration and solidarity because the pathogens and viruses More>>

UN: Growing Calls For Revamping Development Financing To Ensure Sustainable Global Recovery From COVID-19 Pandemic

Forum to highlight new initiatives to tackle inequalities exacerbated by pandemic With many economies reeling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as inequalities continue to widen, world leaders will discuss options to unlock concrete investments ... More>>