BANGKOK • Up to 80 per cent of Thailand's tsunami warning system needs maintenance work, the deputy director-general of its disaster prevention department said yesterday, more than a decade after the region was hit by a tsunami that killed 226,000 people.
A 9.15-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia on Dec 26, 2004, triggering a massive tsunami that caused large-scale destruction and loss of life in the Indian Ocean.
Thailand was among the worst affected, along with Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. Many of the 5,395 people killed in Thailand were foreign tourists holidaying along the shores of its islands and beaches.
Thailand's alert system includes warning towers, a network of detection buoys in the sea and public announcement systems.
"Around 70 to 80 per cent, or around 2,000 pieces, need to be taken care of. We set up this system since 2006, so it needs to be maintained," said Mr Kobchai Boonyaorana, deputy director-general of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department.
"Batteries need to be changed," he added. "I've ordered that this needs to be done urgently, particularly in the southern region, which is a tourist region. There might be some places where the equipment is damaged, but not many places."
Mr Prasert Kunneang, a public relations officer at the National Disaster Warning Centre in Bangkok, said the tsunami warning system is tested daily and Thailand is prepared in the event of a tsunami.
"If there is a tsunami tomorrow, the warning system would work," he said.
Other forms of communication, including television and radio announcements, will be used to warn people about a tsunami while the equipment undergoes maintenance, Mr Prasert added.