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A lifeguard points out to sea at Karon during yesterday's search for a lost tourist

Phuket Double Drowning Raises Alarm About Resort Safety

Monday, August 9, 2010

A search resumed at 6am today for a tourist from Bahrain who went missing in surf at Karon beach yesterday.

Karon Photo Album Above

THE drowning and disappearance of three tourists within 17 days is likely to trigger concern at the highest levels about safety on the beaches of Phuket.

Lifeguards using searchlights scanned the seas off Karon beach until late last night but there was no sign of Bahrain tourist Ali Alsaeed, 25, who vanished in the water about 3pm on an afternoon of tragedy.

Almost at the same time yesterday afternoon, China tourist Chao Dakun, aged about 40, was plucked from the water at neighboring Kata beach and taken to Patong Hospital. Doctors were unable to save him from drowning.

Lifeguards were aghast after a weekend of horror on Phuket's holiday beaches. On Saturday, six schoolchildren were pulled from the water in a mass rescue at Nai Harn, a southern beach. Two required hospital treatment.

Lifeguard sources say four people have drowned at Karon-Kata beaches since April.

Unless there is what one expert calls a ''coordinated response'' to the issue of safety in the water, Phuket's image as a safe year-round destination for travellers is likely to be tarnished - and Phuket could possibly even be subjected to national travel alerts.

The wife of the tourist from China was by his side at Patong Hospital last night, unable to speak the same language as most of the people around her.

A spokesperson for the Lifeguard Club of Phuket said that Chao Dakun's wife continued to talk to her husband after his death. She sobbed as she reviewed on a digital camera the final photographs of she and her husband, happy on the beach earlier in the afternoon.

Another Bahrain tourist, a friend of Ali Alsaeed, was pulled safely from the water by lifeguards and resuscitated. He also sobbed on Karon beach as he realised his pal had gone forever. Two other friends who had chosen not to swim were with him.

Two expat teachers were the first to reach the drowning man at Kata beach after he was struck by a ''dumper'' wave and swept off his feet. The lifeguards arrived soon after.

Ironically, the undermanned and underfunded Phuket lifeguards have been highlighting the need for community action since the drowning of Romanian Gheorghe Paulivc on July 20. Five friends witnessed Mr Paulivc's lingering death from drowning over the next two days.

Resorts all over the island are being asked to warn visitors to Phuket at this time of year that they put themselves in danger by ignoring red flags and other signage designed to protect them.

An email to resort GMs from the Lifeguard Club of Phuket offers a simple warning and provides versions in eight languages.

''The simple rules to keep safe at the beach and in the sea

''Find the red & yellow flags and swim between them
Observe and obey the safety signs
Ask a lifeguard for advice on current sea condition
Get a friend to swim with you
Stick your hand in the air and shout for help when in difficulty
Never swim where a sign says NOT to or when a red flag is flying''

Experts in water safety say that the message needs to be delivered when the visitors first arrive on the island during the April-October monsoon season and reinforced at every opportunity. On arrival at reception would be a good starting point.

Otherwise, people who have been enticed to come to Phuket for a beach holiday will ignore the warnings and swim in unsafe surf.

A spokesperson for the Lifeguard Club told Phuketwan today: ''The Chinese death was so sad because the guide had warned them not to swim at Kata and Karon. And yes, they still swam.''

Failure to reduce the number of drownings on Phuket is likely to bring national travel alerts, especially in the markets that Phuket is aiming to attract - the Middle East and China.

Phuket's lifeguards are hampered by a lack of quality equipment, sufficient numbers, and training. The system that put the current team in place in late April involves a tendering process - which minimises corruption - but also minimises the chances of establishing career professional lifeguards on Phuket.

Lifeguards report large numbers of rescues since late April - 346 involving 221 expats and 125 Thais, with 15 people requiring hospital treatment. According to their stats, there have been 254 ''nearly drownings'' in which people were saved by lifeguards.

One resort, Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort, is combining with the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation to run a five-day training session for 60 of Phuket's lifeguards and Navy personnel early next month.

But training is just one aspect of the complex issue of saving tourists and Thais from drowning on Phuket. Preventing needless deaths requires awareness and action - especially by Phuket's resorts. While some do the right thing and already warn of the dangers, many others do not.

The toll of tourists who have drowned at Karon especially leaves the beach, regarded as safe like most Phuket beaches in the non-monsoon season, in danger of compulsory closure or national travel alerts.

The Bahraini tourists, according to a lifeguard at the beach, had no idea that the red flags indicated it was unsafe to swim.

The lifeguard spokesperson said: ''Amid this tragedy, I found one managing director that would love to have my beach water safety information, Golden Beach Tour Co. Ltd. I will send this information to him - and hope that this would be forward to hundreds more.''

Phuket's future as a year-round beach destination may depend on other reacting speedily and responsibly, like Golden Beach Tour.

Today's Gulf Daily News reported that the weekend disappearance of Ali Alsaeed follows the death of Bahraini Ahmed Karam Toorani, 41, in August, 2004, when he drowned while trying to rescue his children in the sea at Karon beach.

The GDN reported that the father-of-three died as he was trying to rescue his two sons, Murtaza, 15, and Mahdi, 11, who were caught by a wave which dragged them into the water.

Mr Toorani, his wife Sonya Taher and brother-in-law Ahmed Taher raced into the sea to save them.

However, the waves were too big and they were pulled under the water.

It was only after fellow holidaymakers ran to their aid that Ms Taher, her brother and the two children were rescued.
Phuket Day of Beach Tragedies: One Tourist Drowns, Another is Missing, Feared Dead
Breaking News A tourist from Bahrain is missing off Karon beach and a second tourist from China has died in hospital after a separate incident at neighboring Kata beach.
Phuket Day of Beach Tragedies: One Tourist Drowns, Another is Missing, Feared Dead

Phuket Mass Rescue Saves Six From Drowning
Latest Lifesavers and locals on Nai Harn beach combined to save six children who swam into difficulties while on a picnic. Two students required treatment at Vachira Hospital in Phuket City.
Phuket Mass Rescue Saves Six From Drowning

Phuket Resorts Must Stop Drownings or Beaches Will be Subject to Travel Alerts: Opinion
Phuketwan Opinion Drownings can be reduced but only with the help of Phuket's resorts. The alternative is for dangerous beaches to be blacklisted and subjected to Bangkok style travel alerts.
Phuket Resorts Must Stop Drownings or Beaches Will be Subject to Travel Alerts: Opinion

Phuket Drownings: How Life Ebbs Away on Karon Beach
Latest Lifeguards from Phuket's Karon beach are frustrated and upset that many local resorts fail to warn tourists of potential dangers that continue to cost lives needlessly.
Phuket Drownings: How Life Ebbs Away on Karon Beach

Phuket's Killer Beach Claims British Tourist
Breaking News A British woman has drowned on holiday on Phuket, latest victim of Karon, the pleasant beach that turns killer at this time of year.
Phuket's Killer Beach Claims British Tourist


Comments have been disabled for this article.


A very sad day for Kata Beach, talking to the lifeguard this morning he was so disappointed that so many people were ignoring the red flags.and you could see how perplexed and helpless he felt.

Yesterday the sea did not look that threatening and after witnessing the crowds gathered around the poor man on the beach from my villa above I watched half an hour later people returning to the same spot in the surf. The lifeguard running around blowing his whistle and trying to keep them out of the water and people arguing with him that it was okay!!!

My heart goes out to the poor wife of this man and I feel overwhelmed that life can so easily and quickly be snatched away from you. Hopefully there are some people out there that can learn from this horrible experience, I certainly have.

Posted by Christine Fuglsang from Australia on August 9, 2010 10:28

Editor Comment:

The same thing happens every time there's a drowning. People are not inclined to be dissuaded from swimming in the sea on a beach holiday


But it isn't a, "..year-round beach destination" because the beach is unswimmable and any marketing as such is culpable.

Posted by Ripley on August 9, 2010 10:51

Editor Comment:

On some days, Phuket beaches can by idyllic during the monsoon season. It's certainly irresponsible, though, to promote Phuket as a beach destination in the monsoon season without also warning those who do come of the potential dangers.


I walk along the beach on a regular bases and I have never seen a lifeguard yet get up out of their seat to warn anyone even though there are plenty of people in the water with the red flags flying every day. Someone needs to take charge. Kata Beach is almost always safe at the far right or far left end depending on the direction of the surf but the middle is full of danger get the lifeguards off their butt and have them tell the people to get out of the water and mark a place safe to swim, if one actually exists, and tell the people to go there if they want to swim. The same goes for every beach on Phuket. Then and only then will things change for the better. Otherwise you can have all the warning you want posted at hotels and airports, once they get to the beach and see all the people in the water, they will continue to go in, especially when they see the lifeguards doing nothing about it, and they will continue to DIE, end of story.

Have the local business that make money off the tourists pitch in and buy Kata and Karon beach lifguards ATV's so they can go up and down the beach telling people to get out and to allow quicker response to an emergency, especially at these two beaches.

Posted by mike on August 9, 2010 11:23


Why do they always take people to Patong hospital!!. would it not be better to take the people to Vachira Hospital in Phuket City?

Posted by Lord Jim on August 9, 2010 12:50

Editor Comment:

The key is to have cpr applied as quickly as possible on the beach and in the ambulance. Patong Hospital is closer to Karon so perhaps there's some expertise there. Drowning cases from further south at Nai Harn are taken to Vachira, though.


This is confusing:
Find the red & yellow flags and swim between them.
I think the local tesseban in Kata Karon should also make a flyer or something in Thai so the Thai staff in the hotels know the danger. if they are not reading Phuket Wan then They do not know!!!!

Posted by VFaye on August 9, 2010 12:59

Editor Comment:

Yes, the lifeguards want visual representations of the flags with the text.


The Gulf Daily News, Bahrain's national newspaper, reported this story with a photo of a calm sun-kissed beach.

I've written asking them to use your photograph and to warn people not to swim when there are red flags out.

But honestly, the Bahraini could read English, he just thought he'd ignore it.

Posted by Harry Barracuda on August 9, 2010 14:06

Editor Comment:

When international newspapers report the drowning of tourists on Phuket, it sends a clear message to local authorities to try a ''coordinated response,'' or lose the market. As we've said, tourists are enticed to come for beach holidays so it's highly likely that warnings need to be repeated more than once.


I come regularly on Patong Beach.
No signs explaining the danger, sometimes flags, which nobody understands, and never a glimpse of a uniformed lifeguard.
So accidents have to happen some times.

Posted by Long time in Thailand on August 9, 2010 15:46


Dear Ed, the present situation is just not acceptable, signage in many languages must be displayed at all beaches warning swimmers of the present dangerous sea conditions. When the contract for lifeguard services was awarded was there not a clause that the lifeguards would also have jet skis for speed and efficiency when rescues were needed? I read with disdain that recently it took the guards 10 minutes to rescue one distressed swimmer due to the bad sea conditions at that time, unfortunately the poor guy died. Maybe, just maybe a life could have been saved.

Posted by Mick on August 9, 2010 18:23

Editor Comment:

Signage is useful but not enough to make the beaches safe. There's already a lot of beachside advertising that people are conditioned to ignore. Visitors need to be told when they arrive on Phuket that their beach holiday is not what it seems. This should happen as each flight descends to Phuket airport as part of a video introduction to Phuket, then be reinforced personally by a receptionist as every guest checks in. Visitors need to be told that the dangers are great in the water at this time of the year, even if they have been led to believe it's ''summer'' on Phuket. For Thais, education, swimming lessons and awareness are the keys.


For those that say there are no signs at Patong Beach you are wrong - there are at least three. No amount of signage is going to stop someone who is determined to go in the water. Let's not forget the flipside of this - by ignoring the dangers these people are putting others at risk. Why is it always the fault of the lifeguards, not the individuals who ignore them?

Posted by Mister Ree on August 9, 2010 21:03


='( come back cuzn ="(

Posted by fatima on August 10, 2010 08:40

Saturday January 23, 2021
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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