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Officials plan to spend more than B1.5 million to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Asian Tsunami, which killed close to quarter of a million people around the Bay of Bengal, around 10,000 of them along Thailand’s Andaman coast.
The main event will be a full-scale evacuation practice involving Rawai, Patong and Kamala. The latter two were the places on Phuket worst hit in the December 26, 2004, catastrophe.
At a meeting on Friday morning (November 21) at the Governor’s private office, also attended by Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation President Paiboon Upatising and a variety of officers, the Department of Information, Deputy Director-General, Russ Jalichandra, explained, “Boosting confidence is our main reason for marking the 10th anniversary of the Tsunami.”
He explained that the main government memorial event will take place at the site in Khao Lak where the Royal Thai Navy patrol boat 813, washed in by the Tsunami, still sits, 800 metres from the sea.
“The Ministry of Foreign will invite 23 consuls to join the event and we plan to have live broadcast through national and local media, and international media such as the BBC and CNN.
“VIP guests will help us broadcast the memorial event so that everyone will understand that we have not forgotten,” he explained.
The Governor’s office will contribute B400,000 to support events in Phuket, and the OrBorJor will put in at least B1 million.
“The event is a memorial [to those who died in the] tsunami. It’s not something to celebrate. It’s a sad situation so we should not make it fun,” said Gov Nisit.
The meeting concluded with a decision to hold an event to remember the 10th anniversary, with a full rehearsal the day before (December 25).
“The warning tower will send out evacuation drills in Patong, Kamala and Rawai. The drill will include all relevant staff, food and a control centre,” he added.
“This will notify all tourists and locals to follow safety measures and reassure them that they still work, in case another tsunami kicks off in Phuket,” he explained.
Phuket officials will use the media to inform the public that the drill is not real, “The media will play a very important part, if they are not involved people may not be aware that it is just a rehearsal,” Gov Nisit noted.
The anniversary will commence with the traditional ceremony to honour those who lost their lives with a ceremony at the Tsunami Memorial Wall in Mai Khao. It will then be followed by a traditional “Light Up Phuket” candle-lighting ceremony on Patong Beach, supported by OrBorJor Phuket.
The tsunami on December 26, 2004, killed 5,398 people, with more than 3,700 people who went missing when the waves struck Phuket. In total, the disaster claimed an estimated 230,000 to 280,000 lives across the Indian Ocean.
In Phuket, hundreds of tourists, expats, local residents and migrant workers died or went missing. In addition, hundreds also died on Koh Phi Phi, where the devastation was horrific. In Phang Nga province, north of Phuket, the death toll reached the thousands.
The ceremony at the Tsunami Memorial Wall in Mai Khao on December 26 will be a multi-faith service, and wreaths will be laid along the wall.
At 6:30pm, the annual Light Up Phuket candle-lighting ceremony will be held on Patong Beach. Each year, thousands of people turn out to dig holes in the sand and place lit candles within to remember the tsunami victims.
“For this year, we plan to play Gospel music at night during December 26 to 28 – a special project offered by the OrBorJor,” said Mr Paiboon Upatising.
“We have spent about B1 – 1.5 million each year, but for this year, we plan to spend a bit more to support the 10th anniversary,” he added.
All guests are invited to join the event.