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Controversial disaster expert Dr Smith Dharmasaroja, in Phuket yesterday (May 18), warned that Phuket and Phang Nga must keep an eye on the Klong Marui fault line in order to be ready for earthquakes.
Speaking at a seminar on mitigation of disasters such as the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Dr Smith, who is head of the board that oversees the National Disaster Warning Centre, said, “Following the earthquake in the northern part of Thailand and several movements of the earth’s crust around Thailand, I came here today to share my knowledge of the organization needed to prepare for disaster.
“Klong Marui is a small fault, so if there is an earthquake, it will not be serious – only about 3 or 4 on the Richter Scale – but it will effect houses close to the fault. “If we have good protection and a good warning system, lives and property in Phuket and nearby provinces will be safer and there will be no losses. “This will require preparation for the future, as in other countries. I believe advance preparation or advance knowledge for the people or organisations involved will reduce the loss of life and property.”
In 1998 Dr Smith predicted that Phuket and the Andaman Coast would at some stage suffer a quake-generated tsunami. His remarks sparked rumours that a tsunami was already on its way, and many promptly fled for the hills.
The then-governor of the island, Chadej Insawang, along with the entire tourism industry, were furious, and Dr Smith was relieved of his post in the Thai Meteorological Department. When the tsunami did come, six years later, the then-Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, rehabilitated him and put him at the head of a scheme to erect disaster warning towers all along the coast.
The meeting on Sunday was aimed at bolstering knowledge and understanding of tsunamis and ways to provide timely warnings and handle any disaster caused by the monster waves.
Tsunamis are not the only kind of disaster that might befall Phuket. On Wednesday (May 21) a drill involving all the Andaman Coast provinces will practice the actions they take in case of a cyclone-driven storm surge, which could be every bit as destructive as a tsunami.