Translated from EXPRESSEN.SE:
Just minutes after the earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Sunday morning, Thailand’s foremost meteorological experts were sitting together in a crisis meeting. But they decided not to warn about the tsunami “out of courtesy to the tourist industry”, writes the Thailand daily newspaper The Nation.
The experts got the news around 8:00 am on Sunday morning local time.
An hour later, the first massive wave struck. But the experts started to discuss the economic impacts when they were discussing if a tsunami warning should be made. The main argument against such a warning was that there have not been any floods in 300 years. Also, the experts believed the Indonesian island Sumatra would be a “cushion” for the southern coast of Thailand. The experts also had bad information; they thought the tremor was 8.1. A similar earthquake occurred in the same area in 2002 with no flooding at all.
…We finally decided not to do anything because the tourist season was in full swing. The hotels were 100% booked full. What if we issued a warning, which would have led to an evacuation, and nothing had happened. What would be the outcome? The tourist industry would be immediately hurt. Our department would not be able to endure a lawsuit…Unbelievable…
The AP notes (in an article revising the death toll upward to over 60.000), “In Thailand, where thousands of tourists were enjoying a Christmas break to escape the northern winter, many of the country’s paradise resorts were turned into graveyards.” Thanks, in part, to the breathtakingly poor decision made by Thailand’s meteorologists.
Thanks to Jim Hall for the translated text.
Update: The Washington Post mentioned the same article in the Bangkok newspaper, the Nation. They note that the report could not be independently confirmed.