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Experts Say Thailand Not Prepared for Another Earthquake Like Chiang Rai

A monk surveys the damage to a prayer hall at Wat Mae Lao Woraram in Mae Lao district of Chiang

A monk surveys the damage to a prayer hall at Wat Mae Lao Woraram in Mae Lao district of Chiang Rai

 

CHIANG RAI – The Asia Institute of Technology’s Professor Dr Pennung Warnitchai said yesterday,Thailand is not prepared for another devastating earthquake.

Dr. Warnitchai pointed out that most buildings in the earthquake-risk zone were not earthquake resistant.

Experts from the Meteorological Department and Thailand Research Fund (TRF) yesterday visited Phan Pittayakom, Mae Lao Pittayakom, Bankao and Pongphare schools that suffered heavy damage from the 6.3 magnitude quake on May 5 last year. They were there to check out the preparations made for the next disaster.

A man walks past a crumbling pillar at Phan Phittayakom School in Phan district of Chiang

A man walks past a crumbling pillar at Phan Phittayakom School in Phan district of Chiang

 

The impact of last year’s earthquake in Chiang Rai left many schools severely damaged, but recovery has been slow as earthquake-resistant buildings are still under construction.

Dr. Warnitchai said even though Thailand may not suffer as gigantic an earthquake as the one that hit Nepal, its fault lines do have the capacity to generate an earthquake up to 7.0 in magnitude and the law regulating the construction of earthquake-resistant buildings does not cover all types of structures.

“For instance, most of the buildings in Mae Lao district, which are small houses, are not covered by the law, which only covers structures taller than 15 metres and public buildings,” he said.

Thai woman Wallada Wiranondburapat, 34, looks at her collapsed house following an earthquake in Chiang Rai province

Thai woman Wallada Wiranondburapat, 34, looks at her collapsed house following an earthquake in Chiang Rai province

 

A study by TRF and Mahidol University revealed that most of the damaged buildings in tambon Dong Mada in Chiang Rai’s Mae Lao district were small private houses that did not meet engineering standards to endure quakes.

He also stated that the other hindrance was the lack of expertise in constructing quake-resistant buildings among Thai engineers.

“The skill of designing earthquake-resistant buildings is taught at the master’s degree level or higher. I think engineering undergraduates should also study this subject, so we can have more engineers who can build earthquake-resistant buildings,” he said.

An interview with locals also showed that there was a deficiency in earthquake preparation.

Soldiers move out tables from a building at Phan Pittayakom School in Chiang Rai after Quake

Soldiers move out tables from a building at Phan Pittayakom School in Chiang Rai after Quake

Phan Pittayakom School’s Director Sanong Sujarit said his school had coordinated with the Provincial Disaster Prevention Office to train students and members of staff on what to do in the event of an earthquake.

However, the earthquake drill is only held once a year and only a few students were trained due to space limitations.

Natwalan Chueyban, a student from Mae Lao Pittayakom School, meanwhile, said her school did not hold any earthquake drills.

Udom Bunpeng, who lives in Phan district, said residents had not been informed about what they should do during and after an earthquake.

Burin Wechbunthung, director of the Seismological Bureau, said that after last year’s earthquake, the Meteorological Department was cooperating with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, Royal Irrigation Department and Natural Resource Department to share seismological information, which would boost the ability to predict earthquakes.

“The ability to predict earthquakes accurately and quickly will boost the efficiency of rescue efforts. However, at present, there are no accurate prediction methods,” Burin explained.

By Pratch Rujivanarom

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