Are There Tsunamis In Thailand?

credit: Yay

Tsunamis are giant tidal waves that happen after large earthquakes. The shockwaves create super swells that travel at high speeds over massive distances. When the powerful waves hit the coastline, they wash over the land, leaving behind a trail of devastation.

The 2004 tsunami – one of the worst natural catastrophes in recorded history – hit Thailand, killing over 8200 people. It was caused by a 9.1-magnitude earthquake in Indonesia. Three years later, in September 2007, a much smaller tsunami hit Thailand, also caused by an earthquake in Indonesia.

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How Likely Is A Tsunami In Thailand?

Judging by the news reports and death toll following the 2004 tsunami and the subsequent tsunami in 2007, one could easily assume that Thailand is a country that is plagued by earthquakes and tsunamis.

However, this is not the case. The likelihood of Thailand being hit by another giant tsunami in the near future is reassuringly low.

If you are a traveler planning on visiting Thailand soon, you don’t need to worry about a tsunami ruining your vacation!

Even though there have been two tsunamis in Thailand in the last two decades, experts say that the risk of another damaging tsunami in the next 50 years is just over 10%.

According to the official tsunami hazard classification system, Thailand is a medium-risk country (the scale goes from very low to low, medium, and high).

The earthquake that caused the 2004 tsunami disaster was exceptionally rare in its magnitude. It was between 9.1 and 9.3 on the Richter Scale.

That earthquake is thought to be the largest to have occurred in that region in the last 700 years! The chances of another earthquake of that size in the next few decades are very slim.

When Was The Last Tsunami In Thailand?

The 9.1 magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011 did not affect Thailand at all, despite it being only 2682 miles away.

The same tsunami traveled over 5000 miles across the ocean to California, where it caused damage to the Californian coast.

The last tsunami that struck Thailand was in 2007. It was caused by an 8.4 magnitude earthquake that occurred on Sumatra Island, Indonesia.

The 2007 tsunami did not have a striking effect on Thailand. The maximum height of the tidal wave was only 0.06 feet.

The last major tsunami to hit Thailand was in 2004. The tidal waves reached heights of over 64 feet, and the tsunami lasted 7 hours!

Because the last tsunami in Thailand happened so recently (in geological timeframes, anyway), the odds of another one of that size happening soon are low.

Where Do Tsunamis Occur In Thailand?

The devastating 2004 tsunami hit Thailand’s southwestern coastline the hardest. The provinces of Krabi, Phang Nga, and Phuket were most severely impacted. Ranong, Satun, and Trang were also badly affected.

The earthquake that caused the tsunami occurred in the Andaman Sea, so it makes sense that the regions along the Andaman coast of Thailand were the worst affected.

The tsunami was first noticed in the Similan Islands, an archipelago in the Andaman Sea, about 40 miles from the coast of Phang Nga.

According to official records, the tsunami completely obliterated 47 villages and damaged 407! Because of Thailand’s low-lying topography, the tsunami traveled up to 1.2 miles inland in some areas.

Should I Be Worried About Tsunamis In Thailand?

Following the shocking death tolls and damage to infrastructure and property by the 2004 tsunami, many tourists stayed away from Thailand, fearing another disaster.

Still today, travelers who want to visit Thailand are concerned about the risk of another tsunami. But how rational is this?

Geologists and earthquake experts say that it is highly unlikely that Thailand will experience another gigantic tsunami like the 2004 event in the next couple of decades.

Since the 2004 tsunami, the Thai government launched a massive operation to increase the country’s preparedness for the next disaster.

Today, thanks to widespread education campaigns, regular emergency response drills, and the development of early warning systems, Thailand is far better prepared for the next large tsunami.

Tourists should, therefore, not worry about tsunamis in Thailand. They certainly shouldn’t let their fear of a natural disaster keep them from exploring this gorgeous country!

Thailand’s Tsunami Warning System

When the 2004 tsunami struck, there was no time to evacuate people because there was no warning system in place. That is partly why the crisis was so severe and why there were so many deaths.

One positive thing that came from the disaster was the establishment of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. It allows very early signs of an earthquake or tsunami to be detected.

Tsunami warning system TWS
Yay Tsunami warning system (TWS)

The system consists of a network of buoys in the ocean and watch towers along the coastline, and it analyses seismic data.

It issues early warnings so that governments have more time to declare evacuations in areas that could potentially be affected by a tsunami.

When the warning system is triggered, it automatically broadcasts alerts via radio, TV, text messages, and internet bulletins.

The early warning system was triggered in 2012 by yet another earthquake in Indonesia. The emergency alert gave people time to be evacuated from potentially affected regions.

Although the earthquake did not end up causing a tsunami, it was still an excellent test of the effectiveness of the warning system. It gave many people the peace of mind to travel to Thailand again.

What To Do If There Is A Tsunami In Thailand

Thailand is vastly more prepared for tsunamis today compared to 2004. The government has established clearly signposted evacuation routes in densely populated areas, and many Thai people have been taught what to do in the event of another tsunami.

Tsunami Hazard Zone sign
Yay Tsunami Hazard Zone sign

If an earthquake triggers a tsunami warning while you are in Thailand, you should do the following:

  • Get yourself and your loved ones to higher ground as soon as you receive a tsunami alert.
  • Look for the bright orange signs that indicate evacuation routes.
  • If you are not able to escape to higher ground, get to a strong vertical structure and hold tight.
  • In the awful event that you are swept away by the current, you need to cling to anything that floats.
  • Check yourself and the people around you for injuries, and try to administer first-aid where possible.
  • Stay away from evacuated zones until the authorities declare them safe.
  • Do not enter any buildings unless they have been declared safe.