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People flock to beaches to honour 2004 tsunami victims
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: One decade on, people gathered at various seaside spots in tsunami-hit provinces to remember those who perished in the deadly waves.

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the tsunami that killed more than 5,000 people of various nationalities in this country.

In Phuket province, people laid flowers and lit candles in memory of tsunami victims on Patong Beach.

The Light Up Phuket event, which runs until tomorrow, also offers musical performances and exhibitions on emergency responses so people can take care of themselves should a similar event happen in the future.

In Phang Nga province, Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda joined several high-ranking officials in an event at Baan Nam Khem Tsunami Memorial Park.

Anupong read a statement from Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-ocha that emphasized the need to promote a culture of safety among Thais.

Anupong said he hoped the 10th anniversary of the tsunami would remind people of the need to be on the alert and well prepared to deal with disasters.

In Phuket, the Tambon Mai Khao Administrative Organisation organised Buddhist, Muslim and Christian rituals in dedication to tsunami victims. There was also a one-minute vigil among people who showed up in memory of those who died in the tsunami 10 years ago.

In Krabi province, a commemorative event was held at Loh Dalum Bay, Ban Koh Phi Phi, Muang district. There, the tsunami killed 722 people and left 587 missing on December 26, 2004.

“I still vividly remember what happened that day,” said Mard Wangsen, 76.

“I hope the commemorative event will nudge people into understanding that they need to rush uphill if there are signs of tidal waves coming.”

Baan Nam Khem approach wins praise

In Ranong province, religious rituals were conducted to make merit for tsunami victims. The giant waves killed 152 people and affected 45 communities in this southern province.

Preecha Pinang, a kamnan in the province, said he was still worried that preparations in the wake of the 2004 tsunami would not be good enough to protect people’s lives if the waves hit again.

“On existing evacuation routes, it would take locals half an hour to reach a safe spot. But a tsunami can ravage everything in less than five minutes,” he lamented.

Margareta Wahlstrom, the United Nations secretary-general’s special representative for disaster risk reduction, who came to Thailand to attend commemoration events, yesterday emphasized that Thai government agencies and local administrative bodies must collaborate closely to prepare for emergency responses at the community level.

She praised the impressive approach used by the Baan Nam Khem community in Phang Nga province and suggested that it should expand further.

— Phuket Gazette Editors