Last Friday, an earthquake that registered a high 6.4 on the Richter scale brought tremors that were felt across several regions in Thailand, notably the North and Northeast provinces, and even resonated into some parts of the capital city, Bangkok. This event directed immediate attention towards the state of hospital buildings in the quake-affected areas, leading the Department of Health Service Support (DHSS), at the command of its head, Sura Wisetsak, to mobilize a specialized team to assess the situation.
The earthquake’s epicenter was located 76 kilometers southwest of Kengtung, a township in Myanmar’s Shan State, which interestingly sits almost exactly 100km northwest of Mae Sai district, a part of Chiang Rai. This geological activity rang alarms within the DHSS, leading to decisive action.
Under the directive of Dr. Sura, the Medical Supportive Emergency Response Teams (MSERTs) attached to Health Service Support Centres 1 and 8 were tasked to inspect and assess damage risks at hospitals in Chiang Rai (11 premises), Chiang Mai (only two – San Sai Hospital and Chiang Dao Hospital), and Sakhon Nakorn (only one – Sakhon Nakorn Hospital). These areas were chosen due to their proximity to the quake activity.
The makeup of the MSERTs teams is diverse, with skilled biomedical engineers and civil engineers playing critical roles. Their main objective was to critically inspect potential damage within the internal structures of these buildings, a task complicated by the threat of potential aftershocks in the affected regions.
The DHSS deputy chief, Arkhom Praditsuwan, revealed that the department’s Design and Construction Division had also issued instructions to all Public Health Ministry hospitals situated on known fault lines across the country to take preemptive action. Hold Sturdy! – an order to bolster their building structures enhancing survivability and functionality during any future seismic events – was the call to action.
In tandem with these responses, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) report indicated that the Friday quake resulted in injuries to one individual in Chiang Rai. It went further to note that the tremors also impacted Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Nan, and Sakhon Nakhon’s populations. The DDPM has moved swiftly, offering help to the residents affected and conducting further damage inspections.
Interestingly enough, aside from the unfortunate injured individual, seven out of 18 districts in Chiang Rai reported suffering damage due to the quaking. The damage spread across six hospitals, three houses, and even impacted a municipal office building, all of which are now in need of repair. As of now, it remains unclear how much these building repair costs might total.
Lastly, the impact of the quake even reached far as the Wat Phumin, a popular tourist sensation in Nan. The chapel ceiling and a central Buddha statue at the location displayed visible cracks, adding to the already extensive list of property damage caused by the quake.