COURTESY OF WALTER DUDLEY
In the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Thailand has installed sirens that transmit voice messages in several different languages to warn residents and visitors.
Museum will hold lifesaving lessons
A facility in Thailand will honor the dead from the 2004 tsunami
A group of coastal villages in Thailand that lost 190 people to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami will soon get a museum to honor the dead and educate residents, according to a University of Hawaii professor leading the project.
The museum, scheduled to open by May, is being modeled after the Pacific Tsunami Museum on the Big Island, said Walter Dudley, a marine scientist at UH-Hilo.
The facility will be housed in the Kamphuan Community Learning Center built by the U.S. Agency for International Development. It will have an exhibit room and two interactive computer kiosks with a dozen survivor interviews, clips of the destructive tsunami, models on how the monster waves are formed as well as videos on evacuation drills, Dudley said.
While scores of memorials have been set up throughout the country to remember those who died during the tsunami, the museum in Thailand is considered the first education exhibit in that region, Dudley said.
Unlike preparedness information handed out by government agencies in pamphlets, museums are viewed as a more effective way to teach people about natural disasters because residents can relate to real-life stories of survivors, Dudley said. One wall in the museum will display the names of all tsunami victims from about a half-dozen fishing and agricultural villages.
The hope is that it will become as big of an attraction as the Hilo museum, which is visited by as many as 25,000 people, including scores of school groups, each year.
"They walk by signs but then see a story that fascinates them," said Dudley, who returned last week from his fourth trip to Thailand in 18 months. "It really is powerful in getting people to learn the message."
Besides his work with the museum, Dudley also helped some 800 villagers design evacuation maps and perform their first tsunami drill since a warning system was installed about nine months after the 2004 catastrophe.
Local police, military and medical personnel took part in the drill, which Dudley called "impressive," noting it included sirens that transmitted warning messages in English, German and Japanese to alert visitors.
"You could hear it and you could understand it," Dudley said. "They thought about that and went through the trouble. I was very, very impressed."
Dudley also is involved with tentative plans for a similar museum at Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala state, India.
The idea for the Indian museum came in October, when he spent eight days in the country recording 21 tsunami survivor interviews with the help of Jeanne Johnston, an earthquake and tsunami program planner with state Civil Defense. During the trip, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, government officials showed interest in building their own museum, said Johnston, who survived the 1946 tsunami in Hilo, which killed 159 people.
Johnston said while residents in India know a tsunami could strike again, they need more information about natural signs that precede the waves so they can prepare and evacuate safely.
"All they know is the same thing I thought when I was a kid," said Johnston, who was 6 years old when the Hilo tsunami hit. "We had no warning, and then the next thing you know, there's a wall of water coming at you."