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Tsunami Warning Was Stopped

Translated from EXPRESSEN.SE:

Just minutes after the earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Sunday morning, Thailand's foremost meteorological experts were sitting together in a crisis meeting. But they decided not to warn about the tsunami "out of courtesy to the tourist industry", writes the Thailand daily newspaper The Nation.

The experts got the news around 8:00 am on Sunday morning local time.

An hour later, the first massive wave struck. But the experts started to discuss the economic impacts when they were discussing if a tsunami warning should be made. The main argument against such a warning was that there have not been any floods in 300 years. Also, the experts believed the Indonesian island Sumatra would be a "cushion" for the southern coast of Thailand. The experts also had bad information; they thought the tremor was 8.1. A similar earthquake occurred in the same area in 2002 with no flooding at all.

...We finally decided not to do anything because the tourist season was in full swing. The hotels were 100% booked full. What if we issued a warning, which would have led to an evacuation, and nothing had happened. What would be the outcome? The tourist industry would be immediately hurt. Our department would not be able to endure a lawsuit...

Unbelievable...

The AP notes (in an article revising the death toll upward to over 60.000), "In Thailand, where thousands of tourists were enjoying a Christmas break to escape the northern winter, many of the country's paradise resorts were turned into graveyards." Thanks, in part, to the breathtakingly poor decision made by Thailand's meteorologists.

Thanks to Jim Hall for the translated text.

Update: The Washington Post mentioned the same article in the Bangkok newspaper, the Nation. They note that the report could not be independently confirmed.


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Comments (31)

Very tragic, indeed. Howeve... (Below threshold)

Very tragic, indeed. However, I remember being in Hawaii when there was a tsunami warning in 1997 and many (myself included) rushed to the North Shore...

Time for the "blame game" .... (Below threshold)
RM3 Frisker FTN:

Time for the "blame game" ... quick get the widow on the set ... if it bleeds it leads ... fake but accurate ... staged but real ...

many (myself included) r... (Below threshold)
julie:

many (myself included) rushed to the North Shore...

Did you really? Why? If they were giving out warnings, wouldn't they tell you not to do that? Many years ago, my geology prof warned us that when Krakatoa exploded, most people died when they ran down to the shore in Java, ? miles away, to watch. I heard on the news that you only have to be about 100 feet above sea level to be safe. I'm not sure if that is true, though.

The thinking of these experts is odd to me. To me, earthquakes of this magnitude are so rare, that to issue a warning once in a blue moon would not effect the tourist industry.

On the other hand, Florida ... (Below threshold)
cirby:

On the other hand, Florida got evacuation orders (mandatory, at times) about every other week this summer, and we still managed to improve on our tourism income over 2003...

So their instruments where ... (Below threshold)
dcrockett:

So their instruments where telling them that there was no danger (remember the instruments were wrong). So they should get on the TV and say even though our instruments say nothing bad will happen everyone should run to the hills just in case? I would say that this was a wake up call to get better instruments there not to belittle the poor guys trying to read the current ones.

I was in Hawaii for that 19... (Below threshold)
-S-:

I was in Hawaii for that 1997 tsunami warning (comment #1) and was, from the looks of things then, the one and only person taking it seriously.

What I did was, when the warning went off (it's an area-wide loud blasting speaker system in parts of Maui, where I was, and it also is announced on media broadcasts, so you get the message one way or another -- if you're on the beach, in the water, out in some yard or field somewhere, it's nearly impossible not to hear the blasting siren when it goes off, so there's little excuse for not knowing about the warning when it's issued in almost all populated areas of Hawaii).

Anyway, having lived there about a decade but no longer, and never at that time having experienced such a warning, what I did was open the telephone book to the front emergency information area and there it was, clear as could be, large areas of the Island (Maui) that were identified as being "tsunami evacuation areas", right where I was, right in the middle of one of those areas.

The day was clear, quiet, very, very sunny and calm and the water outside my window was gently rippling on the ocean shore, hardly the conditions that anyone would even suspect some harm coming inland from the ocean. Same conditions I hear existed in Southeast Asia/Thailand just prior to the tsunamis there.

So, being a bit confused as to what to do, I called the local police and asked them to clarify...my area was noted as being an evacuation area, what to do...the guy emphasized that I lived in an evacuation area, and...so....I thanked him, read the pages quickly and found out where to go in such a condition (local emergency evacuation destinations were marked), packed up what they said I should be prepared to take with me (and so, did) and then called a blind neighbor down the street who I worried about would be just sitting in his house without much of an idea as to what to do (and who lived in beachfront property, as I did), and then took to the sidewalk to go get the neighbor and then to get to the evacuation center as quickly as possible, lubbing my provisions in a backpack and suitcase (let's see, rolls of toilet paper, portable radio, blanket, pillow, emergency contacts, fresh water, non perishable food stuffs, cosmetics/soap/shampoo/lotions/toothpaste/etc., cash, i.d., a candle and matches, a flashlight and batteries, messkit, something to read)...and there we went, up the hill to a safe place on higher ground, out of the evacuation area.

Everyone we passed was smirking, laughing at us, all headed to the beach, disregarding the blasting warning. We waited in our safe area for the all clear and when it occured, they announced that there had been a few inches of a wave rise on the beach and that was all, but that it just as well could have been a forty foot wave -- you don't know what wave/s will result from the sonic blast underwater until it reaches land and you don't want to be standing around hoping for two inches in a wave when it arrives instead at forty feet (or even thirty) on a beach.

You can see what results when even a twenty foot wave crests at sea level land areas, heavily congested with cars and portable items that all float around and bash everyone and everything else in the water, pulverizing everything and everyone and then washing it all out to sea.

But, the lesson was similar to that in Florida during hurricane evacuation warnings: a lot of people remember the "failed" experience in times past (like that one on Maui) and then disregard future warnings, to their peril. That happened this last year in Florida's Tampa Bay area...people stayed in trailers (very, very foolish, in fact, suicidal), on the beach, in "condos" because, despite being on the waterfront they "were two/three stories up" and so assumed that they'd somehow survive a hurricane because they were off the ground (!!??!!).

Maui/all of Hawaii is something like seventy/eighty percent dependent on tourism, so that they do anything/everything to not rifle the visitors, to "not upset" tourists. Combined with people's lack of familiarity with natural disasters and refusals to heed warnings, you get these horrible death tolls and property damage results from many of these events.

I can understand why these guys refused to issue the warnings, after living in Hawaii for so long and seeing how the economy motivates there from tourism dollars and how the human psychology is to disregard important information even when it's issued (the "it will only affect OTHER people" syndrome). You have to live through some of these events to start taking the future warnings seriously, is what I've concluded.

I know I'd still do what I did on Maui in 1997, but then, I've experienced a few hurricanes, many, many blizzards and some near death experiences in hazardous sports conditions, so, once you get another day from God and an excuse to avoid the certain death moment (as I have, particularly in the ocean -- other stories for later), then doing things by the book is the only way to go.

Those warnings, however, should be issued based on physical conditions and all the other social and economic fears associated with them should be disregarded, but, then, again, I wasn't there and they'd have probably had to wrestle with me had I been there, to not flip the warning switch.

Well, hey! Look on the brig... (Below threshold)
DaveP.:

Well, hey! Look on the bright side, folks: The tourist industry won't have to suffer the negative effects of them having issued a tsunami warning, and their department won't have to endure a lawsuit. Looks pretty win-win to me.

Move over, 9/11 Widows. He... (Below threshold)

Move over, 9/11 Widows. Here come the Tsunami Widows!

Tourist Industry is now dea... (Below threshold)
no money:

Tourist Industry is now dead. No money from Europeans or Americans or Australians...

They are sadly all dead.

Lawyers!, and fear of lawsu... (Below threshold)
inPajamas:

Lawyers!, and fear of lawsuits do it again.
So they think now that it did happen that they won't face any lawsuits?

"they thought the tremor wa... (Below threshold)
butt:

"they thought the tremor was 8.1. A similar earthquake occurred in the same area in 2002 with no flooding at all."
Well, blaming wrong intelligence has worked before, hasn't it?

So let me get this straight... (Below threshold)
Walt:

So let me get this straight...when Bush got wrong intelligence...he lied...will the same standards be applied to the Thai weather service?

They were wrong not to info... (Below threshold)
Nancy:

They were wrong not to inform them - now I read on Drudge 100,000 dead and counting.
I'm just waiting for the blame to be on Bush.
I can smell it coming.

Send in John Edwards to sue... (Below threshold)
mouthpiece:

Send in John Edwards to sue . . . mother nature. Or perhaps the Thai authorities. But if they had warned and there was no damage, he would sue them for econ damage. Can't win with the trial lawyers.

To hell with these countries. No help for FL from the world. No help with Mt. St. Helen.

We are too giving. The takers now want to bite our hands (US is "stingy"). To hell with them.

Because of our generosity we will give; others will continue to say we are stingy, while they do NOTHING. Once again, the USA comes to the rescue, and is ridiculed.

God bless the USA, and the victims of this tradgedy.

Mouthpiece.

So let me get this straight... (Below threshold)
wally:

So let me get this straight...when Bush got wrong intelligence, he passed the blame along. But these meteorological experts are incompetent?

Poor decision making on the... (Below threshold)

Poor decision making on the part of the Thai officials? No way jose. This was common sense. Who else besides me had as their first thought after news of the great quake "tsunami"? I would imagine most of us. The Thai government and police have long been corrupt and have long had a casual disregard for human life, so the latest news from them, quite frankly, comes as no surprise.

he meterological guys are n... (Below threshold)

he meterological guys are not part of an evil conspiracy to kill tourists and thai people any more than bush was part of a conspiricy to blow up his own buildings or to randomly kill iraqis.

If you hang everyone who makes a wrong decision in the end no one will ever make decisions.

In 1970, I was in college t... (Below threshold)
Mark:

In 1970, I was in college taking geology courses. Plate tectonics was new then and just being introduced as theory. But what I remember the most was a comment my professor said on plate tectonics and tsunamis. He said, "If your at the beach and the ocean dissapears to the horizon, you have about 3 minutes to get to higher ground because what is coming will probably kill you." I'll never forget that. Years later in another geology course, I watched a movie entitled, "The City that Waits to Die." It was about San Fransico and the earthquke predicting its destruction. In it, a hand-held video from a Russian crew member aboard his ship docked in Ankorage, ALaska showed the ocean receeding out, leaving all the ships dry docked on the ocean floor. You could actually SEE the floorbed stretching out for a few miles. Within minutes (1-2) a huge wave about 15-25' came rushing in almost capsizing the Russian freighter. On the dock were some dogs and their owners alongside a building. After the wave hit nothing was left, only the pilings that supported the dock and building. My point is that anytime an earthquake of that magnitude occurs under the ocean floor, tsunamis are inevitable! And if the authorities decided not to tell anyone, they should be worrying about law suits for having failed to get the word out.
There could have been information sent out to as much of the areas as possible especially from an earthquake of that magnitude. Someone(s) had to have known what was coming. It was basic geology for me in 1970! SO much has happened since then with better monitoring and such. It is shame more people were not notified.

The blue background for the... (Below threshold)
Charles Kilbourne:

The blue background for these messages is a little too blue, making them uncomfortable to reasd. I should think light blue would be much easier on the eyes.

Prayers to all of those who... (Below threshold)
Steve Collings:

Prayers to all of those who were in the path of this horrible destruction. If authorities knew about this imminent danger and said nothing, well, they have many sleepless nights to endure.

What a devastating blow to a tourist area, and then Jan somebody has the "nerve" to interject politics, ala Jacque Cherac, into this mix!!!

Here's a prayer for peace and understanding to all of the families of the victims in this tragedy.

--Steve

I wonder why Allah permitte... (Below threshold)
maweeks:

I wonder why Allah permitted this to happen?!!

allah doesnt post much anym... (Below threshold)

allah doesnt post much anymore.

bummer....
-lee
+++

I'm a meteorologist and we ... (Below threshold)
Vatten Pojke:

I'm a meteorologist and we issue flood warnings all the time. I live inland, but have a large tourism in my area. Once, we had to "coordinate" with a large tourist town before we issued flash flood warnings. Then one night, they didn't want one, and against my better judgment I listened to them and failed to issue one. Then I found out later that they were evacuating people as we spoke on the phone. They didn't want to "alarm" the tourist industry.

After that, if I felt a warning was needed, I thought "Screw them" and issued. I did get a call on the phone one night about a warning and I politely told them they would be getting warnings from now on, based on my judgment and not on coordination calls. Better inconvenienced than dead.

Original article in the Ban... (Below threshold)

Original article in the Bangkok newspaper, The Nation (English language) is here:

http://nationmultimedia.com/2004/12/28/headlines/index.php?news=headlines_15908069.html

Vatten: Welcome to adult li... (Below threshold)
julie:

Vatten: Welcome to adult life, eh? Nothing is ever black or white. The pressures can be either overt or insidious. But they are always there and in every profession. They wear down the best of us.

My heart goes out to all th... (Below threshold)

My heart goes out to all these people. I hope the international community really gets ingadged and gives the support needed. We are all global citizens and should help these people as we would family.

It is easy to forget that these people don't have the most up to date technology like the US and other more wealthy nations. Even our initial numbers for the earthquake were lower than 9.0. I think this should be a wake up call to the international community. Safeguards should be implamented accross the globe to protect people against catastrophes like this one.

Send in John Edwards to sue... (Below threshold)
purr:

Send in John Edwards to sue . . . mother nature. Or perhaps the Thai authorities. But if they had warned and there was no damage, he would sue them for econ damage. Can't win with the trial lawyers.

To hell with these countries. No help for FL from the world. No help with Mt. St. Helen.

We are too giving. The takers now want to bite our hands (US is "stingy"). To hell with them.

Because of our generosity we will give; others will continue to say we are stingy, while they do NOTHING. Once again, the USA comes to the rescue, and is ridiculed.

God bless the USA, and the victims of this tradgedy.

Mouthpiece.
Posted by: mouthpiece at December 29, 2004 02:51 PM


I could not have said this any better myself....finally someone posts something worth reading!!!! good job mouthpiece :-)

Thanks Mouthpiece...... (Below threshold)
Dave:

Thanks Mouthpiece...
For your crass generalization about this horrible event."Stingy" comment was made within the first hours/day of this tragedy..when the US aid contribution was substantially lower measured to your GDP and what potentially the US could have given (immediately)."Others do nothing" comment won't even be addressed in this post it's so inaccurate.
"USA comes to the rescue again-ridiculed" Uhmm,comes to the rescue again? Specifically ridiculed by whom? As for Florida...Mt.St.Helen...maybe if the United States government(s) would not continually shun World Organizations and Global governing bodies in their various forms the international community would feel as though they were more welcome to assist Americans,especially outside it's own borders.Note* in the formula of aid assistance is the exculsion of wealthier nations due to,well,their wealth.
So, Mouthpiece, shouldn't you be looking for WMD in Iraq,they are there aren't they? As well as the elements who are responsible for 9/11.

Indeed, God Bless America with the exclusion of boneheads like Mouthpiece.

Dave be more appreciative o... (Below threshold)
Rick:

Dave be more appreciative of any help that any country issues at all. I noticed you didnt point out any countries that are providing no assistance. You dont address the "others do nothing" comment because you have no idea what others there are .. do some research then come back and report what you have found instead of regurgitating what you saw on the 10 o'clock news with their 20 second summary of each item of the day. You only pointed out what every other media outlet states, concerning assistance per the US's GDP. The US is the world media's whipping boy. The minute a country issues assistance they are ridiculed by other nations if its not deemed enough by a standard (assistance per GDP) made up by those who are impacted the most. The US and then Japan raised the amount of assistance they were providing.. I didnt see anything in here about people pointing at Japan and its assistance levels????? I love the liberal morons who talk about a natural disaster and then toss in "George Bush, intelligence and WMD's" way to plug that in Dave. Liberals lost the election and soon will lose few seats on the Supreme Court. give it up take your hostility elsewhere and stay on the topic.

Rick, I suppose I could nam... (Below threshold)
Dave:

Rick, I suppose I could name half of Africa and every small Island in the South Pacfic for not helping..if you wanted me to produce a list of nations NOT helping it would take time..look for the post..don't know what the point would be though..as I am still wondering what Mouthpieces' point was in the post...to get angry at Micronesia because it DIDN'T contribute? What nation is biting the hands that feed? You would have to expect criticism at every level from nations impacted...obviously they see it as it's never enough..of course IT IS never enough. Uhhh, the "news" didn't create the GDP aid formula or even begin to debate it. This came from the UN directly intially."US is world medias whipping boy" - what exactly is the "world media"? Why the paranoia? It's a matter of perspective-Rick, live in Europe for a while and you will see a trend of mistrust concerning Russians - so should I say that Russia is the worlds media whipping boy? Live in Caracas,Ven. and Colombia is the whipping boy. More crass generalizations to support your perspective.Uhh.Japan has contributed 500 million.USA -350 million.Who has the larger GDP? That would be the USA,as well as the "larger economy".What is the point to your reference to Japan?

Australia has given 1.8 bil... (Below threshold)
Pat:

Australia has given 1.8 billion dollars, and we only have 20 million people here!




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