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Thailand province successfully trials flood simulation system

A province of Thailand is using an IT system from NEC to help it predict floods

Northern Thailand’s Uttaradit province has successfully trialled a flood simulation system that uses ICT to predict flood impacts.

IT systems are increasingly being used to utilise data analytics to predict natural disasters, which are increasing in number in south-east Asia.

The Uttaradit province trial was conducted from November 2015 to March 2016 by NEC and Thailand’s National Disaster Warning Center (NDWC) as part of a co-operation project between Thailand and Japan.

This stems from a collaboration between Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication and Thailand’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, and it is an attempt to develop disaster prevention systems using IT.

The flood simulation system is one module in NEC’s integrated risk management system that consists of modules such as data integration, visualisation, early warning and disaster modules for flooding, landslides, earthquakes and other natural disasters.

These modules can be used individually, or several modules can be combined to predict multiple disasters simultaneously. Besides Thailand, NEC has also conducted a trial of its landslide simulation module in Rio de Janeiro.

Forecasting floods

The key capabilities of the flood simulation system include forecasting, event simulation, water management and damage estimation.

The forecasting function is based on the integrated flood analysis model developed by Kyoto University in Japan, according to Minoru Hirata, general manager of fire and disaster prevention solutions division at NEC.

The system performs a simulation to predict inundation areas, maximum flood levels and other flood-related information based on meteorological data, topographical data and watercourse data.

“The flood simulation system does not directly interact with NDWC’s other existing systems to trigger alerts. NEC’s system provides accurate flood simulations to support NDWC’s decision making process in case of emergencies,” said Hirata.

“The simulation results together with other information helps NDWC members to discuss and conduct necessary preventive measures, including triggering alerts.”

Flooding is a frequent occurrence and an urgent issue in Thailand. The devastating 2011 Chao Phraya River flood caused large-scale flood damage to many industrial parks and urban areas, including Bangkok. This resulted in the disruption of global supply chains, which had a significant economic impact in Thailand and worldwide.

“I firmly believe NEC’s flood simulator, which is one of the most effective disaster simulation systems for NDWC, will help us improve our operational efficiency,” said Radm Song Ekmahachai, director of warning and dissemination section at NDWC.

“To benefit more from the system, we are considering further expanding the coverage area of the simulator.”

Technology has been very useful in early warning systems in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), although more can be developed given the unprecedented growth and severity of weather patterns in the Asean region in recent times, due to global warming, El Niño and La Niña effects, said Gerald Wang, IDC government insights head of Asia-Pacific.

Read more about how IT can reduce the impact of flooding

IDC government insights believes that by 2018, natural hazards will drive more than 50% of Asia-Pacific (Apac) governments involved in emergency response to invest in predictive IT systems to prevent, manage and mitigate damage and loss.

However, government organisations face an increasingly complex risk environment due to the challenges of cross-agency/multi-agency collaboration issues and dwindling IT budgets, along with the increasing frequency, impact and severity of natural disasters, said Wang.

“Many Apac governments are turning to the integration of big data and analytics technology to leverage real-time disaster data collected by cell phones, crowd-sourced through social media and IoT devices such as government drones equipped with sensors,” said Wang.

The real value of these disaster prevention systems will be when the data can be used beyond a single nation’s geographical boundaries. Instead, it is collated globally from a broad variety of organisations.

“This is where historical, current and real-time municipal data becomes invaluable for implementing predictive analytics. This can mitigate flood damage due to typhoons or it can track monsoons with complex network analysis tools,” said Wang.

Within Asean, there are other disaster prevention systems such as Project Noah (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) by the Philippines’ warning agencies. The project combines science and technology to provide a six-hour lead-time warning to vulnerable communities against impending floods.

Another project is PetaJakarta, an open source platform that collects information of Jakarta’s hydro-infrastructure and matches it with public activity on Twitter. The aim is to provide the public with alerts on whether it is going to flood or not and what roads to take, for example.

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