The Events Of Monday 28 March
I was lucky enough to be away from Phuket when the latest earthquake occurred.
Having now returned to Patong and listened to my friends' recollections of events, I wonder where the newspapers and the government obtain their information? (i.e. "The Warning system worked".)
Friends of mine were in small sois near the beach, they heard no warnings at all, and despite asking around Patong I can find no-one who heard a single Tsunami warning. I don't doubt they were there, but with the volume of music in the beer sois?
I can find no-one who heard of, or saw, police running from door to door shouting 'Evacuate, Evacuate' as was reported. In fact most people, given the information that this was a lesser quake than last time, and on the other side of Sumatra from Phuket, assumed it would be a lesser wave, if any, and stayed in their homes or rooms.
This is a logical assumption, but I am no expert, does a lesser quake necessarily mean a lesser Tsunami? People should be educated on the mechanics of these things.
I have heard reports of Bangla Road suddenly filling up with people, to the point where it resembled a stampede from an exploding London Underground station, only to have the peoples progress to safety impeded by a log-jam of Tuk-Tuks and motorbikes and a continuous stream of traffic on 2nd road, which meant that they, and the hundreds pressing up behind them could not cross 2nd road and thus get to higher ground and safety. This was on a Monday night incidentally, the quietest night of the week. OK, this time there was no tsunami, but if there was, and on a busy night?
We can but hope that the right people will have noticed the problems highlighted by this false alarm, and will take action to limit them for the future.
THE NIGHTMARE SCENARIO
The people on Patong beach get warning of an approaching Tsunami, but, THEN WHAT?
So you run up the beach, you have to fight your way past the chairs which are now edge to edge the entire length of the beach, but you get safely to beach road? THEN WHAT? If you are not near Soi Bangla or one of the few other exit roads from the beach, how, in your panic and, especially if you are new in town, do you know which way to run to find the nearest exit road towards higher ground? .
So you survive the hordes of panicked people running in either direction along beach road and get into a road heading away from the beach. You then find yourself at the rear of a frightened wall of people who cannot cross 2nd. road because of the stream of fleeing vehicles trying to reach higher ground or, worse still, you find that you have run into a dead end road and the only way out is back to the beach.
Unless a few simple measures are taken, the next disaster could be multiple deaths from a false alarm, and the ensuing panic, long before we ever see another real Tsunami. Remember Hillsborough? (96 people crushed to death at a football match)
A FEW HUMBLE SUGGESTIONS
Reduce the number of tuk-tuks, they pack the roads in Patong every night. In most towns and cities you might have to stand at a curb, and signal for a taxi for a few seconds, or walk a couple of hundred metres to a taxi rank. These tuk-tuk guys are parked up in their hundreds harassing nearly everyone who passes by. I suggest having parking for 40 or so of them at ranks around the town centre, the rest can wait in a field out of the centre of town to be summoned as necessary. Each one who gets a fare goes then to the back of the field. It only needs a few walkie talkies to co-ordinate this, and at the ridiculous prices these guys charge, financing it should not be a problem. Note: This would also save the driver's fuel money, and a great deal of energy, with the accompanying benefits to the environment.
Leave gaps between the beach chairs, not the 4 metres suggested lately but, at least 10 metres between each operators' bank to give crowds of people an escape route. Have a beach warden or wardens to make sure these distances are observed and the pairs of chairs are in even rows and well spaced. The beach warden can also keep the jet ski and parasail operators at one end of the beach.
Give the escaping people some indication of where they should be running to, e.g. signs saying 'left 100 metres to escape road', 'right, 50 metres to escape road' like the 'distance to emergency phone' markers on motorways. It is no use telling strangers in town to head for higher ground if they don't know how to get there. Many roads leading off the beach road are dead ends, and should be clearly signed as such, in several languages. Where possible these dead ends should be eliminated by provision of emergency escape routes. This applies also to dead end beer bar sois, in case of terror attack also, I know this is another subject, but the same problems arise. If a wave or a fireball heads down Soi Eric where are you going to go? I know the back way out, do you? The tourists certainly do not.
Do not let hawkers clog the escape roads to the extent that there is only room for one person at a time to get through on each sidewalk, as in some parts of Bangla now. I know the hawkers will be escaping as well, but they will be trying to rescue their barrows and wares and only adding to the bottlenecks. As it is now, people have to walk in the road in parts of Bangla, particularly near the ladyboy soi where tourists stand gawking, but how can a running horde of people get through a solid mass, of tuk-tuks motorbikes and hawker barrows?
Reduce the volume of music allowed to be played in bars open to the street, to levels where other events can be heard. People go to these bars mostly to talk anyway and, if they want their brains to be nuked, they can go to the discos.
Pedestrianise Soi Bangla in the evenings but, do not allow the hawkers to move in making it even more impassable. I would rather take my chances with the traffic than try to fight my way through a 'Patpong like' street market. In my opinion a Pattaya style 'Walking Street' is the way to go.
Lives before Greed!
The idea of a Pattaya style Walking Street sounds like a good one.