The serene quiet of the Daroonrajwittaya School in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai was disturbed last Friday when an earthquake in Myanmar sent ripples through its layers. Cinematic scenes unfolded as students ducked under their desks, seeking refuge from the mild tremors that danced across the school building. This live event was captured in a video posted on the school’s official Facebook page.
Coming in at a magnitude 6.4 on the Richter scale, the quake was no minor deal. Its epicenter was identified about 76 kilometers southwest of Kengtung in Shan State, which places it roughly 100 kilometers northwest of Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai. The quake’s vibrations managed to travel through space and time, to be felt in certain northern and northeastern provinces, and even some areas in the fast-paced city of Bangkok.
Following the aftermath of the quake, the Ministry of Public Health stepped into high gear. Medical emergency response teams had been instructed to check fourteen hospital buildings in areas that experienced tremors from the quake. The man at the helm of this initiative, Sura Wisetsak, head of the Department of Health Service Support, tasked teams from regional health service support centers with this emergency intervention.
With a team composed of biomedical engineers and civil engineers, their primary focus was to assess the interior of the buildings for any damage inflicted by the quake. The teams were also responsible for risk assessment, providing recovery support, and staying vigilant for potential aftershocks, as confirmed by Dr Sura.
The narrative sings the praises of proactivity and foresight on Dr Arkhom Praditsuwan’s part. As the deputy chief of the department, he instructed every ministry hospitals situated on fault lines across the country to reassess and enhance their structural details. The goal was to be well equipped and fortified against any future seismic disruptions. He also directed the hospitals to invest in shock-proof tech for their new infrastructures, conforming to the 2007 Building Control Act’s guidelines.
In the wake of the earthquake, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation reported a casualty in Chiang Rai. Various degrees of impact were reported across locales such as Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Nan, and Sakon Nakhon. Their personnel were active on the ground assisting affected communities and investigating incurred damages.
The tremors didn’t discriminate in their path of impact. Out of 18 districts in Chiang Rai, seven reported some level of damage. Six hospitals, three residential buildings, and a municipal office required repair work. Part of the narrative involves a nine-story hospital building from Sakon Nakhon, where the tremors left signs of their presence on their eighth and ninth floors, leading to its temporary closure.
The Engineering Institute of Thailand (EIT) took matters into their hands as a team of engineers, led by Thanet Veerasiri, conducted an inspection of the building on Saturday. The preliminary survey ruled out any damage to the main structure as the cracks found were not a result of the quake. Subsidence concerns were put to rest after a thorough inspection using a high-resolution camera. However, for the next 2-3 weeks, measurement instruments will be installed on the topmost floor and the roof to further gather data for any residual aftershocks.
Miraculously unscathed by the earthquake was Wat Phumin, a renowned tourist destination in Nan. Even the sacred silence of its main chapel featuring a Buddha statue was not spared, evidenced by the new constellation of cracks spanning across its ceiling.