Thailand opened a natural disaster warning center on Monday, five months after the devastating tsunami killed more than 5,300 people on its southern coast.
“It takes them 15 minutes to send out warnings, more than enough time to warn people of a coming tsunami,” Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said as the Natural Disaster Warning Center opened live on television from a northern suburb of Bangkok.
Although the tsunami warning system was not yet complete because it still required sea buoys to measuring a tsunami’s impact, it would be effective for now, Thaksin said.
The center, supplied with $750,000 worth of communication equipment from a group of American software firms, is crammed with computer screens and linked to earthquake centers in Japan and Hawaii, Thaksin said.
The center, which would issue alerts on other natural disasters such as floods, forest fires, and hazardous chemical leaks, will receive and analyze earthquake information from provincial meteorological offices across the countries.
If it believed a tsunami was coming, a warning would be sent to all television channels, radio stations and mobile phones by text messages, officials said.
Last month, Thaksin attended Thailand’s first tsunami evacuation drill on the beaches of Phuket, one of Asia’s premier tourist resorts, which involved navy helicopters, ships, and three warning towers which blared warnings.
Fifty more towers would be completed soon and the Thai center was ready to share information with other countries if a tsunami was expected, he said on Monday.
Thailand’s official death toll from the Indian Ocean disaster stands at 5,395. A further 2,822 people are listed as missing.