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Phuket Drownings Highlight Wasted Lives

Monday, January 18, 2010
ROAD TOLL and drowning figures for 2009 confirm that deaths in the water are far out of proportion to fatalities on Phuket's roads.

A total of 153 people died on Phuket's roads, while 57 died in the water.

Given the large difference between the number of people who use the roads and the number who swim or work on water, more resources probably need to be devoted to water safety.

The Director of Phuket's Public Health office, Dr Pongsawat Rattanasang, said today that he thought Phuket's lifeguard system at popular beaches was not good enough.

The beaches have been unguarded for long periods in 2009 and remain unguarded today because of the need for officials to seek tenders for lifeguard companies.

''Equipment also should be improved,'' Dr Pongsaway said today. He said tourists came to Phuket for beach holidays, imagining that the island was a safe place to swim all year long.

''Some of the tourists also do not believe what beach guards tell them,'' he said.

The drowning figure includes the deaths of six tourists and a Thai from a dive boat capsize in March. It is believed the poor performance of rescue services on that occasion has led to a 17 million baht allocation for a Phuket sea rescue service.

On the roads, the Director of Phuket's Transport Office, Kanok Siripanichkorn, said the toll of 153 showed more work needed to be done.

''Seventy percent of fatalities involve motorcycles,'' he said. ''People should wear helmets. People should ride on the correct side of the road. People should obey red lights at traffic signals.''

Phuket is difficult driving sometimes, he said, because it combines steep hills and windnig roads and sometimes unpredictable weather.
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