Thursday, February 22, 2007

ACT Consultant Wanchai: Bangkok's New Airport is a Firetrap and People Could Die


Airport passenger terminal is a firetrap: designer

People could die in an evacuation because of blocked exits: Wanchai

Suvarnabhumi Airport passenger terminal has been rendered a firetrap by construction changes and operational mismanagement, one of its designers warned yesterday.

"In a case of fire, there could be evacuation problems and people could die," he asserted.

ACT Consultants managing director Wanchai Wimuktayon is worried emergency exits are blocked and many can only be opened with security key cards.

He demanded Airports of Thailand (AOT) address his concerns immediately.

It must train staff for emergency evacuations, too.

Wanchai said some fire exits were used for worker access and needed cards for passage.

"From our survey, several fire exits in the passenger terminal are blocked by retail stock, baggage trolleys or cleaning carts. Some exits are locked."

He said airport security personnel did not know how to conduct emergency evacuations.

A state-appointed committee inspecting Suvarnabhumi problems has cited 61 faults and accused the Murphy Jahn/TAMS/ACT design consortium of being responsible for terminal defects.

Wanchai admitted fewer-than-required fire exits and toilets were flaws.

But, he said, the six administrations that ordered changes along the drawn-out design-and-construction phase should take responsibility, too.

The design took 12 years to complete because 24 changes were ordered. Each of those was redesigned, too, he said.

The overall structure remains true to the original design in order to meet Japan Bank for International Cooperation lending criteria. But many details have been changed.

There were too few toilets because space originally earmarked for toilets was taken over by "other things".

"I have to admit, too, there are violations of the Building Control Act due to problems with fire exits and a shortage of toilets. When the design was drawn, the government told us there would be a ministerial regulation to accommodate the changes," Wanchai said.

"However, that government went out of power and subsequent administrations did not make the amendments.

"It is the AOT which has tocorrect them to comply with the law."

Aside from passenger terminal problems, Suvarnabhumi suffers from cracks on its landing area.

Deputy Transport Minister Sansern Wongcha-um yesterday assigned AOT director Tortrakul Yomnak to head another airport committee.

Tortrakul investigated damage to runways.

His new committee will recruit local and international engineers to re-evaluate and solve problems.

Parts of the airport landing field have been closed to accommodate repair work and some flights will have to be diverted to Bangkok International Airport at Don Muang. It reopens on March 21.

AOT next week finalises terms of reference for private companies to bid for Don Muang concessions, including transport, communications and information systems.

Watcharapong Thongrung

The Nation

I think the one good thing about all the Suvarnaphumi Airport problems is that people at least know that the airport is dangerous before a major disaster occurs.

If people continue to use that airport, and something bad happens, it really is their fault.

The government does have some responsibility, because with all the terrorism happening all over the country, it is not good to have the airport be a firetrap as well as a structural disaster.

Unfortunately, the Thai government doesn't think it is its responsibility to protect the lives of foreigners while on Thai soil. For it, there are more important things to consider, like money and face.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It may be only me and it may be a jaundiced perspective but am I the only one that thinks the Thai simply cannot get things done properly? It seems the only approach to solving problems is form a new committee to talk about it the need for any actual action is avoided by the simple expedience of calling yet another commitee, possibly in an effort to find one that will tell us what they want to hear. Presumably on the basis that 'That outome is no good, we lose face. Now we will form a new committee and will keep doing it unti you get it right"! Meetings, the sensible alternative to work.