Northern Dams Safe Despite Earthquakes: Officials

Remains of a collapsed house in Chiang Rai province

CHIANG RAI — Top officials have insisted that a series of earthquakes in northern Thailand have not damaged major dams in the region.

The 6.0-magnitude quake hit Chiang Rai province at around 18.00 yesterday, sending people to flee from their homes and buildings in panic. Waves of aftershock, measuring 5.0-5.9 on the Richter scale, followed throughout the morning today.

The quake is considered to be the strongest in living memory by many local residents, and its effect has caused severe damage to hundreds of buildings in the area, including several historic temples.

The incident also raised concerns that some dams in the northern region, such as the gigantic Bhumipol Dam, may have been harmed by the quake and its numerous aftershocks. 

However, Bhumipol Dam director Pisut Chokkatiwat said today that the dam has been virtually unaffected by the earthquake in Chiang Rai province. The dam and its four generators continued to operate smoothly despite the quake and its aftershocks, he said.

In fact, the structure of Bhumipol Dam can withstand up to 7.5-magnitude earthquakes, Mr. Pisut added. 

Meanwhile, oficials at Mae Ngut Dam in Chiang Mai said the dam was automatically shut down immediately once the quake struck the neighbouring province in order to avoid any malfunction. Its generators were later re-activated to resume their operation normally, officials said.

Transport Minister Chatchart Sitthipan also urged the public not to panic or spread false information about the earthquake's effect on the northern dams. 

Speaking during his trip to inspect the damages on the Route 118 highway in Chiang Rai's Mae Saruay district today, Mr. Chatchart warned that dissemination of rumours and false reports of earthquake damages will only worsen the situation. 

He advised the residents in Chiang Rai province to stick to the news reports which will be issued every two hour by the local authorities.


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