Bangkok (AFP) March 13, 2008 – A top Thai meteorologist, tasked with issuing tsunami alerts to avoid a repeat of the 2004 Indian Ocean disaster, said Thursday he would quit, complaining of a lack of government support.
Smith Dharmasaroja, the chief of the National Disaster Warning Centre, said he would tender his resignation to the science and technology minister.
“We don’t have enough support from the government,” Smith told AFP, adding the centre was struggling with inadequate government funding.
The warning centre, which was created after the 2004 tsunami, coordinates weather and other information from different agencies and decides when to alert the public of possible dangers.
Smith complained that the system for coordinating with other agencies was poorly conceived and could result in delays in issuing tsunami warnings “properly.”
The deadly Indian Ocean tsunami hit Thailand’s southern resort island of Phuket and five nearby seaside provinces in December 2004, killing 5,400 people in the kingdom alone — half of them foreign holidaymakers.
Smith said he had raised tsunami risks with government officials long before the 2004 disaster, but his warnings fell on deaf ears.
Since the 2004 tragedy, Thailand has installed a high-tech warning system designed to reassure tourists and businesses that the country’s beaches are safe.
The government has installed 79 warning towers along the coast, which are linked to the National Disaster Warning Centre in Bangkok.