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27 Dec, 2004

Tsunami Dispatch 1: “Nuclear Tidal Wave” Hits Asia

Asia’s tryst with natural and man-made disasters continued on the morning after Christmas Day 2004 when tidal waves packing the power of a small nuclear blast crashed through many coastal areas.


Asia’s tryst with natural and man-made disasters continued on the morning after Christmas Day 2004 when tidal waves packing the power of a small nuclear blast crashed through many coastal areas. At the time of writing, more than 14,000 people are feared killed, thousands more injured and many thousands missing.

AFFECTED AREAS: Parts of Phuket, Krabi, Phang-Nga, Khao Lak and other beach resorts on the Andaman coast of South Thailand, parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, India, Bangladesh and Somalia. In all these places, all areas have NOT been affected, just some.

UNAFFECTED AREAS (as per announcements received from various Travel Impact Newswire readers: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Bali, the Royal Cliff Beach Hotel in Pattaya, the whole Gulf of Thailand area, other properties in the East Coast of Thailand, the Phulay Beach Krabi Aprime Resort in Krabi.



Asia’s tryst with natural and man-made disasters continued on the morning after Christmas Day 2004 when tidal waves packing the power of a small nuclear blast crashed through coastal areas of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Myanmar and Maldives. At the time of writing, more than 14,000 people are feared killed, thousands more injured and many thousands missing. In terms of tourism impact, South Thailand has been worst affected.

Reactions by various people hit by the tsunami are being posted on the BBC News website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/4125619.stm.

After a year of relative calm that raised visitor arrivals to record levels in 2004, the Asia-Pacific travel & tourism industry is again on crisis alert. Since the April 1997 haze caused by forest fires in Indonesia, Asia has been affected by a number of medical, financial, political, social, cultural, technological and environmental crises. This time, too, only parts of Asia have been affected, but as perception is reality, other parts of Asia are likely to suffer, too.

Major rescue operations under way all through the affected areas. Militaries and medical authorities have been roped in to provide relief operations. Airlines, hotels, tour operators and tourism authorities have scrambled to help get their passengers out. Many new year parties likely to be affected; for those who choose not to cancel the parties, Travel Impact Newswire recommends holding a minute’s worth of silence in memory of this tragedy.

The toll would have been worse had the waves struck earlier when Christmas festivities and parties were in full swing in the populated areas. Still, in Phuket, many divers and boats were affected because that time of the morning was when many boats were leaving for the offshore excursions to the various islands. Many bodies of swimmers remain unidentified. Many divers and others who were already offshore have not yet been accounted for.

Rescue operations were delayed by the fact that it was early Sunday morning and services were not operating. Only a few minutes alert was received, as against days of early warning that precede other comparable disasters like hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones. Indeed, serious questions are being asked about the failure of technology. Why didn’t satellites and seismic-activity monitoring bodies pick up the signs and sound an alert?

After years of benefitting from crises in other countries, many parts of Phuket and the beach resorts of South Thailand, the jewels in the crown of Thailand’s future tourism marketing strategy, are in ruins. The major beaches of Patong, Kamala, Kata and Rawai, have been severely hit, along with large parts of the islands of Phi Phi, Krabi and Phang-nga. The rest of the high season effectively has been wiped out. This morning, industry meetings were under way in Bangkok to assess the situation, provide help and plan the future.

Its going to be a hard slog. Infrastructure has been severely affected and will take weeks, possibly months, to rebuild. Roads and telecommunication services are down in many areas. Fishing and marine piers were totally destroyed. As many new resorts were under construction and/or re-development, a long-term crisis of future hotel capacity is looming. In addition to the human toll and damage to construction and property, a financial disaster is likely. Office computer files, legal, tax and financial records and other official documentation have been wiped out and will take months to reclaim.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said after visiting the area that visitors who wish to leave immediately are being helped find flights and other means of transportation. Many hundreds more are staying on to locate missing relatives, friends as well as belongings.

The Thai Foreign Ministry is coordinating with the embassies to issue Certificates of Identity to facilitate departure. It is also coordinating to ensure that they have adequate food, water and shelter. Embassy officials have mounted an operation to issue alternate documentation for people wishing to leave the country. Hospitals are on full alert. Appeals for blood and other relief material are being broadcast. People are being urged to avoid all unnecessary travel to Phuket and south Thailand, still fearing aftershocks.

The crisis is expected to affect attendance at shows like the upcoming ASEAN Tourism Forum 2005 in Langkawi and other international trade shows over the next few months. At the same time, the ATF likely to be used to start remounting all-clear campaigns by those who remain unaffected.

At a wider level, the catastrophe will change the future agenda of industry forums (how much should be invested in averting terrorism, as against natural disasters like this). The science of crisis management is also likely to be raised to new levels, especially the use of the internet and websites to transmit information. A World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR) is to be held between Kobe, Japan, 18 to 22 January 2005. Further information on this event is available on official website http://www.unisdr.org/wcdr/


PATTAYA AND GULF OF SIAM UNAFFECTED — Announcement from Royal Cliff Beach Resort Hotel

The Royal Cliff Beach Resort wishes to declare that fortunately, the earthquake and the resulting tidal waves did not affect the City of Pattaya and the Gulf of Siam as a whole. We would like to assure all those worried for the safety of their relatives and friends, who are currently on holiday in Pattaya – as well as those who are scheduled to travel to Thailand – that our resort city did not experience any ill effects of the earthquake thanks to the city’s geographical location and the nature of the mountainous terrain that surrounds the City of Pattaya from several sides.

We wish to confirm that the people currently staying in an around the resort city of Pattaya are completely safe and were never in any danger.

We also assure that all those arriving to Pattaya and/or to the Royal Cliff Beach Resort are in no danger. Both the sea and the waves have been very calm for the last few days and we have seen clear and sunny skies.


THAI Coordinates with TAT for Complimentary Injured Transport

Thai Airways International Public Company Limited is coordinating with the Tourism Authority of Thailand to provide complimentary transportation for Thai people and expatriates affected by the natural disaster in Southern Thailand. Complementary transportation will be provided to Bangkok for those injured and in need of medical treatment, which includes transport of the deceased. Passengers and the injured will be transported from Phuket and Krabi by THAI flights to Bangkok for treatment at hospitals in Bangkok, those being Bhumibol Adulyadej Hospital, Thammasat Rangsit Center Hospital, and others, effective during the afternoon of 27 December 2004 onwards. THAI’s normal flights to and from Southern Thailand will be operated as follows:

– Bangkok – Phuket at 9 flights per day

– Phuket – Bangkok at 14 flights per day

– Bangkok – Krabi at 4 flights per day

– Krabi – Bangkok at 4 flights per day

Passengers and the injured seeking transportation to Bangkok or those seeking to transport the deceased to Bangkok may contact: THAI’s Office at Phuket International Airport at Tel. (076) 205-335, (076) 327-194. THAI’s Town Office in Phuket at Tel. (076) 212-400, (076) 211-195.

THAI has established a Help Desk Center at the Domestic Terminal of Bangkok International Airport at Tel. (02) 535-7670 to 3.

In addition, THAI also transferred passengers of THAI, AirAsia and other airlines as well as the airline’s staffs remaining at Phuket International Airport to Talang Technical College that is located 2 kilometers far from the airport. THAI has also closely cooperated with the Crisis Management and Operations Center to arrange large aircraft for passengers waiting for flights at Bangkok and Phuket.



Bangkok, December 27th, 2004 – Bangkok Airways in collaboration with Bangkok Hospital Public Company is helping evacuate every possible victim from the Tsunami devastation to Bangkok with a fleet of at least 25 ambulances of Bangkok Hospital standing by at Bangkok Airport. This emergency evacuation service is free of charge.

The additional flights took off this morning to Phuket at 10.10 hours and 11.30 hours with teams of professional medical doctors and nurses who are well trained and experienced in medical air evacuations, aboard. Also, in the afternoon will be another additional flight at 15.20 hours and in the evening at 21.10 hours. Bangkok Airways also adds more flights from Phuket to Bangkok.

Bangkok Airways will continue to help relieve the situation with the utilization of all types of available aircraft namely 70-seat ATRs, 120-seat Boeing 717-200, and 162-seat Airbus 320 at unlimited frequency. The airline, at time being, promises to rotate all aircraft to rescue as many victims as possible.

Such immediate mitigation of losses was initiated apart from the one million Baht donation toward ITV last night. Bangkok Airways’ assistant team will continue to endeavor forth in assisting those stranded at the sites until the situation gets better. Meanwhile, Bangkok Airways at Samui Station will cater foods and water to the needy in the areas of Krabi and Phuket. The two catering flights will take off from Samui Airport at 1130 hours and 1230 hours.

For more information, please contact Bangkok Airways’ Media Relations Division at 02 265 5686, 02 265 5670-2; and Dr. Surapong Lokehanumanchao Managing Director and Director of Bangkok Hospital Phuket at 076 254 421.



BANGKOK, December 26, 2004, 1830hrs –

Dear PATA member in Indian Ocean rim area:

On behalf of PATA, I extend my condolences for the damage done and losses incurred following the December 26 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. PATA is here to offer assistance to the best of our abilities. Help us to help you by keeping us updated on your damage assessment and recovery plans, particularly as they relate to your inbound tourism business. The information we need in order to gather an accurate and balanced picture of the situation is as follows:-

1) Do you have operations within any of the areas affected by the tidal waves? (This may include an accommodations facility, or an affected area may be part of a tour itinerary that you operate, or you know that one your customers travelled to an affected area upon your recommendation.)

If you do not have operations within any of the areas affected, you need not continue to answer the questions, however, we would appreciate if you could keep us updated on any information that you may have that would help us help you.

If you do have operations within an affected area, please continue:

2) What is being done to search for people still missing? (Is there a need for foreign assistance?)

3) From your point of view, are medical facilities, shelter, food and drinking water sufficient in all the areas affected by the tidal waves? (Is there a need for foreign assistance?)

4) In the areas affected, how many of your customers were foreign tourists/travellers when the tidal waves impacted?

5) In the areas affected, how many of your customers were domestic tourists/travellers when the tidal waves impacted?

6) Please tell us how many injuries and fatalities have occurred among your customers as a result of the tidal waves.

7) Of those injuries and fatalities, how many were foreign customers?

8) What is being done by you or your government to contact the embassies and families of the customers affected by the tidal waves?

9) How are the surviving tourists/travellers being treated? For example, do they have access to shelter, food, medical aid and international telephone lines?

Based on your answers and those of your fellow PATA members in the industry, PATA will endeavour to counter misinformation (if any) and help you maximise the effectiveness of your recovery strategies in the days and weeks ahead.

Ken Scott, Managing Director-Communications, Pacific Asia Travel Association, 28th floor, Siam Tower, 989 Rama I Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand. Tel: (66-2) 658-2000 ext. 107. Fax: (66-2) 658-2010. Web site: www.PATA.org



The Indonesian Meteorological and Geophysical Agency (BMG) placed the epicenter of the quake at a depth of 20 kilometers below sea level at a position 149 kilometers off the southern coast of Aceh, North Sumatra.

While thousands of deaths in Western Indonesia resulted from the massive destruction of buildings in Loksumawe and Aceh in North Sumatra and from the effects of tidal waves along Sumatra’s northern and western coasts, other areas of Indonesia remained largely untouched by the catastrophe.

Bali-based travel operators, hotels and foreign consulates are reporting numerous enquiries from people seeking news of friends and relatives holidaying in Bali. Located some 2,500 kilometers away from the earthquake and well-shielded by numerous large intervening land masses, Bali did not feel the earthquake or experience any of the deadly waves it generated.



We wish to inform you about the situation in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In those countries, there have been no victims or material damages reported. The situation there is perfectly normal, there is no missing or wounded.

The coastal regions have not been struck by the series of tsunamis that followed the quake. You can therefore inform your clients’ families that they are out of danger, as well as the tourists planning to travel to those destinations who might have interrogations. The situation is safe, whether in Vietnam, in Cambodia, or in Laos.

We of course remain at your disposal in order to provide further information regarding this natural disaster and the situation in our countries.

Phoenix Voyages Team, Direct line: (84-8) 822 6575, info@phoenixvoyages.com

or phoenixvietnam@hcm.fpt.vn. Website: www.phoenixvoyages.com



As you may already aware we have faced the worse disaster of our lifetime. According to available sources 15,000 have already been dead due to the tidal wave. Over one million people including women and children are homeless.

At Sarvodaya we are working round the clock in all affected areas to help those innocent victims. We have set up a special unit at our head quarters and five other centers around the country to handle this mammoth operation.

We plead for help from you.

Whatever you can do to help save these victims please contact our 24 hour help lines. +94 785 107 107 (Krishna) +94 7222 44690 (Vinya) +94 777 899 196 – General ++94112 655 255 – +94112 655 125 – +94112 655125 Fax +94112 656512

Or email for more details > ssmplan@sri.lanka.net > Krishna@itmin.net > nirvana@sltnet.lk > arisar@sltnet.lk. Please help us to help the needy at this sorrowful moment in the history of this country.

Dr. A T Ariyaratne, Founder – President, Sarvodaya Movement, Sarvodaya HQ, #98, Rawatawatta Road, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka


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