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Zhao Dakun, whose wife watched him drown and saw his death in hospital

Phuket Beach Mayor Orders Resort Red Flag Alert

Wednesday, August 11, 2010
UPDATE

Relatives accompanied the body of Ali Abdulaziz Al Saeed back to Bahrain last night, the Gulf Daily News reports. His uncle Ahmed Qassim made the journey back to Bahrain on the first day of Ramadan with another family member, who had gone with him to Thailand to supervise the formalities.

Original Report

THE MAYOR of Karon is to circulate his own version of a warning that all 100 resorts in the Kata-Karon area will be expected to place in a prominent position following two drownings on Phuket at the weekend.

The drownings of tourists from Bahrain and China took place on the neighboring beaches of Kata and Karon almost simultaneously about 3pm on Sunday afternoon.

Mayor Thavee Thongcharn chaired a special meeting on Monday that examined the need to prevent drownings with an adequate warning system, and to improve the reaction times of rescue ambulances along the west coast beaches.

Some water safety experts believe two or three personalised warnings of the dangers of swimming at Phuket's beaches are necessary to dissuade tourists who may be intent on swimming - the keenly anticipated requirement of a Phuket beach holiday.

One of the victims of the weekend drownings was staying at a hotel in Patong, so the system needs to be applied to all resorts on Phuket - not just those close to the most dangerous beaches.

The mother and father of Zhao Dakun, 47, who died in Patong Hospital after drowning at Kata beach as his wife looked on, arrived on Phuket yesterday. Instead of cremating their son as originally planned, the family has decided to repatriate his body to China for a funeral there.

Bahraini victim Ali Abdulaziz Al Saeed, 24, a lifeguard in his home country, disappeared into the surf at Karon on Sunday. His body washed up on the same beach 40 hours later. A friend in the water with him was saved with resuscitation on the beach.

Relatives arrived on Phuket yesterday evening. They hope to repatriate the body to Bahrain as soon as they can book on a flight back via Bangkok.

Phuket's monsoon season between April and October produces strong ''rip'' currents that are difficult to detect. Rips can pull even strong swimmers out to sea. At other times, ''dumper'' waves can sweep less capable swimmers out of their depth and into trouble.

Phuket's lifeguards, freshly reinstalled in April, are undermanned, undertrained and underequipped. They want to see a comprehensive system of warnings delived through brochures and in person when every guest first checks in to a resort on Phuket, and renewed with signage so that the red-flag system is fully understood.

Last year there were 57 drownings in the waters of Phuket. This compares with the 153 deaths on Phuket's roads, highlighting the disproportionate danger in the water.

So far this year, there have been 25 drownings to the end of July. Local sources say there have been three drownings at Karon and one at Kata since April.

The mayor's suggested warning in Thai and English, topped with the municipal seal, is:

KARON MUNICIPALITY
Seasonal Warning
RED FLAG = DANGEROUS SEA
The monsoon season has started and on certain days the sea can
be very dangerous.
Whenever the red flag is placed, we urge you not to swim in the
sea as there are invisible under currents, which are almost impossible to detect from the shore.
Too many accidents occur every year on the Andaman Sea
beaches and we cannot assume any responsibility in case of an accident.
For emergency cases, Please contact
Fire Protection Department, Karon Municipality
Tel: 076 330 913, 076 331 023 or 199

(signed) Thavee Thongcharn
Karon Mayor
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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Hope this will work but I'm afraid that it will not. The problem is that when tourist arrive after a long year of work they don't like to be told not to swim. They booked, they paid and now they want to do it. I think the tour operators in their home countries bear some responsibility as well, to inform their customers!

Posted by Phuket on August 11, 2010 14:42

Editor Comment:

Just as long as they are telling tourists about the rabies outbreak in Bali as well . . . can you really imagine tour operators telling potential customers the reasons NOT to go to destinations? Let's keep this discussion in the realm of the possible. Given that all destinations will attempt to attract customers by promoting their best features and disregarding the negatives, responsibility has to start as each flight descends to Phuket, with Warning One, and as guests check in, with Warning Two. Then Warning Three comes at the beach.

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Phuket Governor with local officials and Marine Police may make a law to prohibit swimming when sea is dangerous.
Day per day a committee may decide for that coming day if swimmers are allowed to swim in the sea.
Marine Police which is officially in charge of sea accident should be present on all beaches and charge irresponsible crazy swimmers with a 1000 Baht fine.
As 30% of all fines in Thailand goes directly to law-enforcers (Chuan Leepkai's law), it may be given to rescue centers to improve local rescuer's training.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on August 11, 2010 16:30

Editor Comment:

Inevitably, the issue would be enforcement. But if there are more needless deaths, then beach closure may be the only option. The resorts should all be working hard on a warn-and-warn-again strategy to make sure that doesn't happen.

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Why can't warnings start with before they (tourists) leave their desitnation>? Why does it have to start here, again, money. Why let the tourist start their trip, sometimes many of hours, but then you tell them the sea conditions.

They don't have to tell the clients about rabies if they are are not going there! Tell the clients about where they are going, Phuket???

Posted by Lee on August 11, 2010 16:44

Editor Comment:

Unlike riding a motorcycle without a helmet, the danger at the beaches is seasonal. And it can change on a daily basis. Some days, the beaches are safe. Some days they are not. There is no way people can be told before they reach Phuket whether conditions are going to be safe, or unsafe. Hence it's a responsiblity that begins when people arrive, not before.

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A step in the right direction. The tourists are properly warned but fining them for going into the water is not realistic. The roads are dangerous as well, lets fine people for driving on the roads while we are at it. The fact is that thousands of people swim during monsoon season and live to tell about it. The responsibility ultimately falls on the individual. How about renting life jackets to people to boost revenue and save lives instead of turning this into a police state like our own countries have become.

Posted by Jon on August 11, 2010 17:17

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Should be with a universal don't swim symbol .. That is a lot of text to read for a non-native speaker not fluent in English.

Posted by VFaye on August 11, 2010 18:53

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Could start with amending much of http://summerinphuket.com/ brought to you by the same media firm that handles the tourist police and the governor's website !!

The site is apparently "A group of local hoteliers and businesses in Phuket, Thailand have ''cancelled Low Season April 15 through November 1 and are renaming the period more appropriately Summer Season to better reflect the fact that Phuket is one of the world's top year-round vacation and second home destinations."

Posted by LivinLOS on August 11, 2010 19:50

Editor Comment:

Yes, ''summer'' is quite appropriate on some days in the monsoon season. But not lately. And use of the word could tend to make people think that, as in most places, ''summer'' is a great time to swim on Phuket beaches. Resorts that use ''summer'' as an enticement should feel obligated to ensure their ''summer'' guests are fully informed on arrival, and that they depart without dramas.

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To all the dogooders out there, realise that at the end of the day it just comes down to one undeniable conclusion.
Everyone is in charge of their own lives so choices they make impact on their destiny.
If that choice is to swim when conditions are not suitable (dangerous) so be it. You just have to accept the fact that some people will not heed others advice (warnings).
Loss of life is tragic but at the end of the day we must all accept the responsibility for our own actions.

Posted by Whispering Jack on August 12, 2010 00:05

Editor Comment:

When a hotel staffer is asked ''Why didn't you warn them?'' and responds with: ''They didn't ask'' you have to think that some resorts could show more duty of care.

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Warnings should take place when it is very risky. And 'SWIMMING in the sea in this season is VERY RISKY.' Do not kill no more tourists by selling holidays without this warning. It is about life.

Posted by Anonymous on August 12, 2010 04:29

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So......let me get this straight.

If a red flag is flying on the beach, no swimming.
A red and yellow flag means it's safe to swim.

Confusing? Maybe they should change the safe swimming flag to green?

Posted by Sir Burr on August 12, 2010 08:23

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I would suggest a number of the victims thus far displayed alongside the warning would be most effective at deterrence in ignoring warnings.

Foreign and Thai tour operators should inform visitors of this fact about monsoon season and that local hotel group should warn on their sites, too.
And I agree get the red out of red and yellow "safe to swim " flags, it breeds complacency, or are those really caution while swimming flags?
Just too confusing and I live here.
When I first arrived five years ago I had no idea about the riptides or monsoon waves, so until PW started stirring the nest, it was Phuket's dirty little secret.

Posted by Ripley on August 12, 2010 09:30

Editor Comment:

With better sources of information and a growing number of inquisitive tourists, the old practice of not telling has been abandoned. Most authorities on Phuket understand the need for transparency and see the sense in solving the problems rather than hoping they will go away.

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@ Jon...
If I understood your comment, all policemen and law-enforcers are useless as tourists are adults and are responsible of their acts.
Am I right?
So, no fining for those not wearing a helmet.
Am I right?
So, no fining for those driving while drunk.
Am I right?

Posted by Whistle-Blower on August 12, 2010 09:33

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no the yellow and red flag means it patrolled by lifeguards but they have red flags in between some of these areas to show where the rips are, I think a better explanation of rips is needed, if people understand not to fight against them it could save their lives.
For advertising "the summer campaign" it should be mentioned that the seas can be potentially dangerous and not be left to a day by day basis, it's actually more a minute by minute basis it can change so quickly

Posted by Michael on August 12, 2010 09:46

Editor Comment:

One thing that might help is a "Safe Swimming Days'' sign. This idea is effective on construction sites, where it help to promote collective awareness by saying ''Days Without a Time Loss from Injury: 164.'' Days Without a Drowning: 164.

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I tried to submit a warning to TripAdvisor and this was their response...
"
Dear TripAdvisor Member,

Thank you for taking the time to write a review. We're sorry, but we weren't able to publish your review. You're very welcome to post your message on TripAdvisor Forums (http://www.tripadvisor.com/ForumHome). Forums are discussion boards in which members ask and answer as many travel-related questions as they like, share opinions and get travel help from fellow members.

We look forward to seeing your contribution to our community.

Best regards,
Eric
TripAdvisor Support Team

[127]"

So I will try the message boards and see if that helps anybody to save a life.

Posted by Graham on August 12, 2010 10:33

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I am still not getting my head around the fact, that one victim was a lifeguard.

With a proper information system at work, I would recommend, if you need rescue while swimming with a red signal, you should have to pay a mandatory contribution, even higher if you were warned before or while entering the sea.

Every rescue attempt brings the people doing it into danger and takes away the chance of possible rescue from others as there are only limited resources.

Because you can see every day people getting warned and they just do not care. Maybe as an idea, give the lifesavers a plasticed paper with graphical pictures and cartoons about the danger of the sea. So they can make clear, why they warn you. Should help with not understanding Chinese also.

But I really like one mayor finally start the action, as the talk about dying instead of holidaying in Phuket gets bigger. And again, awesome how they jump, when Chinese authorities grumble.

Posted by Lena on August 12, 2010 15:41

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Graham,
I too, have had warning on TripAdvisor.com removed.
I would suggest the site's Review section is useless for ascertaining safety of a destination, they just won't publish bad news.

Posted by Ripley on August 13, 2010 09:14

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No comment ! the responsability (or) irresponsability belongs to the persons in charge of the problem; Phuket municipality! they are doing NOT ENOUGH! they welcome the tourists on Bangla Road (making it safer with no cars in the evenings) but have absolutely no idea about how to make their beaches safer; the resorts are not guilty, a tourist will be more attentive to a clear bulletin board, located at the right location, flags, life guards are of course necessary, but also at the right locations with the necessary equipment, car, dinghies etc etc and...Trained staff !!!! yes in Phuket you got more Jetski professional to show their skills turning and polluting the beaches...and killing you eventually, than Professional rescuers able to save someones lives. Welcome to amazing Thailand ! (my deepest sympathy to all the victims)

Posted by serge on August 22, 2010 20:25

Editor Comment:

Hello Serge, There's a collective responsibility to save lives, and we've seen some of the excellent warnings posted at Patong beach. But many tourists go past the notices without stopping to read them - that's human nature. Resorts also need to take responsibility - after all, they are the ones who encourage tourists to come here in the monsoon season. They should act responsibly and always warn their guests of the dangers in the water. Saving lives requires a community response - from everyone.


Sunday July 5, 2020
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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