News

Thai Meteorologist Returns to Oversee Tsunami Warning System

Multimedia

Audio
A senior Thai meteorologist whose warnings about tsunamis were ignored years ago is now overseeing the establishment of a tsunami warning system in his country.

In 1998, Samith Dharmasaroja, a Thai government meteorologist, called for the creation of a tsunami warning system after an earthquake and wave surge in Papua New Guinea took the lives of over 1,000 people. He was accused of scaring away tourists and harming business, and eventually was pushed to retire.

Now, Mr. Samith is back at work, recalled by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, following the December 26 tsunami that claimed more than 150,000 lives across the Indian Ocean.

"I put a warning in written form to the department concerned and to the deputy minister and so on, but they didn't regard my warning," he said.

That had deadly consequences last month. More than 5,000 people perished as the waves smashed into resorts and fishing villages in southern Thailand. Almost half the victims were foreign tourists.

The prime minister has called for an investigation into why the Thai Meteorological Department did not warn of a possible tsunami after a massive earthquake hit off the shores of northern Indonesia.

Mr. Samith says a tsunami warning system could have cut Thailand's death toll by half. "I am sorry for all the people that died," he added. "For the family of the people who lost their lives because if the government had taken some action and not disregard my early warning, I can save a lot of lives, especially Thai citizen and also foreigners."

Mr. Samith also asks why the U.S. tsunami warning center in Hawaii failed to warn countries of the approaching wave surge. The tsunami reached India 90 minutes after devastating Indonesia's Aceh province.

"They are supposed to give early warning because there was a lot of time left for them to issue an early warning for these countries," said Mr. Samith. "I want to find out. I still get mad, really mad, because they could [have saved] maybe 60,000 lives from those countries."

The U.S. center works with Pacific Rim governments that participate in the warning system. However, most of the nations hit by the tsunami do not take part, partly because the tsunami risk in the region was considered small. The U.S. center says because it has no monitoring system in the Indian Ocean, it did not detect the tsunami, but did issue a warning that one was possible.

The need for regional tsunami warning systems will be the focus of a ministerial meeting being held in Bangkok on January 28.

Thailand is bidding to be the base for the center. But it is facing stiff competition from Indonesia.

Mr. Samith says Thailand's satellite and telecommunications systems and links between the Pacific and Indian Oceans gives the country a geographical advantage.

The United Nations cultural and scientific agency, UNESCO, has said a $30 million tsunami warning system could be in place in the Indian Ocean by mid-2006.
This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs