In Thailand, the provinces of Krabi, Phang-nga, Phuket, Ranong, Satun, and Trang were affected. A total of 5,323 people died, a third of whom were foreigners. More than 3,000 people remain missing.
Thailand was able to mobilize rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts within a short span of time. The immediate response in emergency rescue and deployment of health workers, doctors, nurses and volunteers was observed within six hours following the tsunami. Clearing rubble and construction of temporary shelter for affected people began the week following the disaster. Within one month, new houses had been built for some of the affected persons. This rapid response has been significant in helping the population return to a sense of normality.
The immediate health challenges were well taken care of and management of patients led to very low mortality among patients who were treated at hospitals. Patients were rapidly transferred to other hospitals in neighbouring provinces to help reduce the overcrowding in hospitals nearest to the areas affected by the tsunami.
WHO’s contribution in dealing with this public health emergency can be attributed to the Organization’s ongoing work in training health workers and strengthening the public health infrastructure of the country.
Active health surveillance was concentrated in the six affected provinces where no unusual disease outbreaks were reported. The Ministry of Public Health, Bureau of Epidemiology, conducted surveillance in 77 health centres, 22 state-run hospitals, four private hospitals, 14 temporary shelters for people affected by the tsunami, and two body identification centres. There was no significant outbreak of gastro-intestinal or respiratory infections such as cholera, measles, influenza and encephalitis.
In the area of mental health, over 10,000 people were surveyed in the first two weeks of the disaster, with special focus on those who had earlier received treatment. No major disease was identified, though in the initial phase, many patients were treated for trauma, stress and depression.
Advice was given to health professionals and general public on the management of bodies, rapid assessments, food safety and other technical issues. National authorities also requested WHO help with the major challenge of identifying persons who died using evidence obtained from corpses: there was a widely expressed need to access forensic medicine expertise that reflected current international standards: a major challenge given the large number of un-identified human remains.