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Dept reaches out to victims

HEALTH CHIEF SAYS QUAKE LEFT MANY RESIDENTS IN FEAR

THE MENTAL Health Department is reaching out to earthquake victims in Chiang Rai, many of whom remain shaken by the quake on Monday.

"We have found that the victims are under stress. They are afraid of staying at home and are gravely worried about rumours of a dam collapsing," the department's director-general Jedsada Chockdamrongsuk said yesterday, adding that many victims could not sleep and were finding it difficult to breathe.

He said that after a disaster like this, anxiety, lack of concentration, confusion, insomnia, lack of appetite and headaches were common among victims.

"But the symptoms should generally improve or disappear within a month," he said.

Jedsada added that he had dispatched some mental-rehabilitation teams to Chiang Rai's Mae Lao and Phan districts, which were hit the hardest.

The quake on Monday appears to be the largest in Thailand's recent history.

"Teams from the department are now working in close collaboration with Suan Prung Hospital's Mental Health Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder among victims," he said.

According to a provincial branch of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), the 6.3-magnitude quake affected more than 50,000 people in Chiang Rai alone.

"The disaster affected 54,542 people here, ruined 12 houses and partially damaged 8,371 others," Maj-General Pornchai Duriyaphan said yesterday in his capacity as deputy director of Isoc's Chiang Rai office.

He said as many as 63 temples, 31 government offices, four bridges, five roads, one community building, one hotel, two electricity systems and a waterworks system had been damaged.

Caretaker Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang said at least five schools in Chiang Rai suffered serious damage.

"We have detected serious problems at five school buildings. Overall, 60 classrooms have been affected," he said, estimating that fixing damage at the Phanphittayakhom School alone would cost about Bt30 million.

Meanwhile, caretaker Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt said the quake and aftershocks might have caused damage worth between Bt50 million and Bt100 million to his ministry's facilities.

Though the epicentre was in Chiang Rai, the quake affected some other provinces too. Aftershocks continued until yesterday.

Anek Sihamat, who leads the Fine Arts Department, said he had learned that the quake damaged 17 historical sites.

"In most cases, the top part of the structures broke off or the structure sustained cracks," he said, adding that no historical structures had actually crumbled. "That's probably because people in the old days knew how to construct quake-proof structures."

The damaged historical sites include the main pagoda of the Phra Borommathat Nakhon Chum in Kamphaeng Phet province and the Phra That Hariphunchai Temple in Lamphun province.


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