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Experts warn of network of faultlines in North, as quakes rock Lampang

Feb 21. 2019
Officials yesterday inspect the quake damage to residential homes in tambon Thung Hua of Lampang’s Wang Nua district.
Officials yesterday inspect the quake damage to residential homes in tambon Thung Hua of Lampang’s Wang Nua district.
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By The Nation

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THOUGH THE 25 quakes and aftershocks in Lampang’s Wang Nua district on Wednesday and yesterday did not cause much damage, academics are worried about the North, as it has several faultlines scattered across the region.

The recent quakes slightly damaged a few dozen homes in tambons Thung Hua, Rong Koh, Wang Kaew, Wang Sai, Wang Thong and Wang Nua, including the tiered umbrella of the Wat Phra Kerd pagoda in tambon Thung Hua.

The 4.9-magnitude quake also cracked some walls and knocked off tiles in the Tambon Rong Koh Administrative Organisation and Tambon Thung Hua Administrative Organisation buildings, prompting officials to evacuate.

Penneung Wanichchai, seismologist at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), who has served as head of the Thailand Research Fund (TRF)’s quake-disaster prevention project, said that in theory, a 4.9-magnitude quake is dangerous. 

He said that the Phayao faultline should not be blamed for the Lampang quakes. 

“In reality there are many more faultlines under the earth’s surface. These quakes may have stemmed from other faultlines. We may be worried about residents living near visible faultlines, but I’m worried about the entire region. There can be a quake at any time, as seen in the May 5, 2014 earthquake in Chiang Rai. The Lampang quakes have made us realise that quakes can happen any where, so people should be aware,” Penneung said. 

“Houses should be reinforced with metal and larger pillars,” he said, adding this team had reinforced four school buildings and was currently working on another four. 

He added that the government should add another 15 per cent to the budget for constructing state buildings – especially schools and hospitals – so they could be reinforced. 

The Thai Meteorological Department’s Earthquake Observation Division has blamed the quakes on the Phayao faultline, which passes through Phayao, Lampang and Chiang Rai provinces. 

Wat Phra Kerd’s abbot, Phra Athikan Mongkol Mangkhano, yesterday leads officials to inspect the damage to the pagoda’s visiblytilted tiered umbrella top after Lampang’s Wang Nua district on Wednesday suffered a 4.9magnitude quake.

So far, the 4.9-magnitude quake at 4.05pm on Wednesday in Lampang’s Wang Nua district was the biggest, while the latest 2.6-magnitude aftershock occurred at 6.07am yesterday, the centre said. 

Teraphan Ornthammarath, who leads the TRF project for mapping out quake-risk areas in Thailand, said that though the Lampang earthquakes did not cause much damage, people should still stay out of risky buildings in case there are more violent aftershocks. 

Citing the inspection of damages in Lampang’s tambon Thung Hua, he said the tambon administrative organisation’s building only suffered cracks in the wall, while the pillars and beams were unaffected. He said only one house in the tambon was coded “red”, as the metal interiors of a pillar had been exposed. 

Thung Hua resident Krisadaporn Nuchsawat, 41, said people in the area were too frightened to stay in houses that had sustained cracks, and had set up tents to sleep outdoors. 

“I was cooking outside when the 4.9-magnitude quake hit, and was shocked to see my house develop cracks. I don’t dare sleep inside now,” she said. 

Nit Maekuam, chief of the Thung Hua administrative organisation, said his tambon had seen 17 homes damaged by the quake, though only two sustained severe damage. 

Wat Phra Kerd abbot, Phra Athikan Mongkol Mangkhano, said the monks will have an engineer inspect the temple’s damaged umbrella and see if it can be restored. 

AIT’s civil-engineering chief, Asst Professor Anek Siripanichakorn, warned people to stay away from walls or pillars that had diagonal cracks, advising residents to put up wood plans or scaffolding for support and call in experts for repair. 

Separately, Thongplew Kongjun, Royal Irrigation Department’s director-general, said the quakes did not affect the region’s mid- and large-sized reservoirs. 

An analysis by the Office of Engineering Topographical and Geo-technical Survey found that the quakes’ peak acceleration rates did not go beyond the dams’ quake-resistance levels.

The Lampang quakes could be felt in the provinces of Chiang Mai, Phayao and Chiang Rai. Many Chiang Rai residents worried this might be a repeat of the 2014 6.3-magnitude quake, which had shaken Phan district, damaged buildings and caused “superficial” cracks to the Mae Suay dam. 

Mae Suay district chief Kitti Chaidarun said the dam was not affected by the Lampang quakes.

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