Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Phuket journalists saved 3000 lives but Tsunami death toll error continues

The Boxing Day tsunami was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. It caused serious damage to Thailand's west coast and killed more than 8000 people in Thailand.

THE TSUNAMI did not kill 8000 people in Thailand. The toll was just under 5400.

Sadly, an official Thai government document, published to mark the first anniversary of the tsunami that struck Phuket and the Andaman coast on December 26, 2004, carried the wrong figure of 8000 . . . and the inaccuracy has been repeated over and over again ever since.

Working in the aftermath of the tsunami, a colleague and I clearly established that the author of the government document had simply made the mistake of adding the known death toll and the so called total of ''missing.''

The author failed to take account of the wonderful work of the Thai Tsunami Victims Identification unit.

As the police, dentists and pathologists identified nameless body after nameless body, the names should have come off the ''missing'' list.

Unfortunately, because of the lack of coordination between Thai government departments at the time, that didn't happen.

So the mistake was carried in Associated Press and other international news organisations. The false figure even appeared in the closing credits of the the film, 'The Impossible,' last year.

It really is time that Thailand celebrated the work of the international and Thai team that identified the vast majority of the victims, leaving only 388 people who have yet to be identified.

Their bodies are buried in a special cemetery in Phang Nga, north of Phuket, each in a concrete tomb and a metal coffin, to preserve as much DNA as possible.

After nine years of this mistake being repeated over and over again, without journalists checking it properly, if there is one thing we wish for the tenth anniversary this December, it's for the Thai Government to finally correct the mistake.

Restore Thailand's reputation for accuracy.

Wednesday 16 July 2014


Post a Comment