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Karon beach, scene of yet another tragic, needless Phuket drowning

Phuket Drownings: Russian Vanishes at Karon

Sunday, August 30, 2009
Phuketwan UPDATING Report

RESCUERS are looking for the body of a 32-year-old Russian tourist, believed to have drowned in the surf at Karon beach today.

Officials from the local tessaban authority were involved in today's search, said tessaban staffer Anurak Yamklay.

He said the man, a guest at the Thavorn Beach Resort, disappeared in the sea about 11.30am. The resort confirmed that the man, staying alone, arrived yesterday.

He was named as Alexander Lukin. The Russian honorary consul is based in a resort nearby, at Kata.

Many of the recent deaths have been of tourists for whom English is not their first language. New warning signs at several beaches are mostly in English and Thai only.

Calls for the closure of popular Phuket beaches on unsafe days, with swimming banned entirely, are expected to intensify after today's tragedy.

Virtually every weekend this year on Phuket during the monsoon ''Summer'' season has brought one or more drownings.

Despite the question marks over safety on all Phuket beaches, but especially Karon, Karon was recently listed at No. 4 among ''World's Best Family Beaches'' in a new Lonely Planet book.

Critics have questioned the marketing push to project Phuket as a year-round destination when safety on the most popular west coast beaches remains so uncertain.

Experts note that protection systems work in other beach holiday destinations. They note that every fresh drowning on Phuket is horrifying, tragic, and unnecessary.

The island's reputation as a holiday destination suffers with each death.

Even Karon locals have joined the chorus, making the point that the skills of beach lifeguards leave a lot to be desired.

At the same time, tourists who have come to Phuket for a beach holiday during the monsoon ''Summer'' season often ignore warnings because they are intent on swimming.

It is not clear whether resorts at the key beach destinations consider it their responsibility to warn guests on arrival that swimming in rip currents can kill at this time of the year.

Emails sent by Phuketwan to several resorts asking this question have gone unanswered.

The Public Health Ministry now records the monthly toll of drownings on the island, but the compilation of figures from Phuket's three public hospitals does not specify at which beaches the drownings have taken place.

Without those statistics, it is not possible to say which beaches are safest, and which beaches need the most pressing attention to safety.

What is known is that more than 30 drownings took place in the first six months of 2009, although this figure included seven fatalities when a dive boat capsised off Patong.

Seven more drownings, mostly on popular west coast beaches, were recorded in July.

Below, Phuketwan reprints the latest advice on ensuring tourists and residents are protected:

Here's the advice of Australian water safety expert David Field:

I have been involved in the training of lifeguards in Phuket since 2001. Although I train lifeguards employed in the hotel industry I have had opportunity to train beachguards over my time in Phuket and have had ample opportunity to look closely at beach management practices on Phuket's beaches.

I would make the following recommendations to reduce drownings immediately in Phuket during the low or summer season.

1. Implement beach management practices where trained lifeguards identify safe areas on beaches for swimming. ie areas free from rips and undercurrents and mark these areas with appropriate identification for beach users.

Currently, beachguards fly red flags continuously during the low /summer season on all beaches. Why? People travel to Phuket to enjoy the warm waters of the Andaman Sea and they could do so safely if beachguards were properly trained to provide safe swimming areas on beaches

2. Train beachguards to professional standards to recognise hazards in the aquatic environment; prevent beach-users from getting into trouble by actively supervising at the water's edge; having the fitness and skills necessary to effect a rescue efficiently and if necessary apply first class resuscitation skills to improve a patient's chance of survival.

Sadly, these four accepted principles of ocean lifeguarding; that of prevention, recognition, rescue and resuscitation are lacking from Phuket beachguards and their overall lack of professionalism is why they are regarded by many locals in Phuket as something of a joke. Presently they are beachguards and have not earned the title ''lifeguard''.

Phuket currently has a group of lifeguards trained to Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard standards. These guards formed The Phuket Lifeguard Club in 2003 and voluntarily train Thai people in surf awareness and resuscitation skills. It is this group that is behind the children's water safety days held around Phuket since 2008 and the staging of Surf Carnivals at Loma Park.

The expertise to effectively manage the bathing public can be seen daily at Relax Bay aka Karon Noi where Le Meridien employed lifeguards run a safe, open beach on days when all other public beaches are closed with red flags. When the Le Meridien lifeguards close the beach it is only after a careful assessment of risk as per their training and standard operating procedures.

I am saying that the necessary expertise already exists in Phuket to manage beaches safely but what needs to happen is for the authorities to request this expertise to provide a satisfactory lifeguard service for Phuket's public beaches. The cost of drowning deaths to foreigners and Thais alike far outweighs the cost of implementing such an initiative.

As a quick example, the current chaos of Patong could be improved greatly with the provision of, say, three safe swimming areas identified daily by trained lifeguards. Swimmers would be managed into these safe swimming areas by the lifeguards who would intervene when people entered the water outside the designated safe areas.

Jet skis, board riders and parasailing would have designated areas separated from the swimming areas. When surf conditions were considered too dangerous by the chief lifeguard, the red flags would go up and the beach would be closed until conditions improved, with a change in tide or wind or waves.

Clearly identifiable swimming areas with clearly identifiable lifeguards would promote a culture of respect and safety. 100 years of surf lifesaving in Australia has taught hard lessons about the need for professional, highly trained personnel managing beaches for the benefit of the public.

The experience of those 100 years already exists in members of the Phuket Lifeguard Club trained to the Australian standard - please make use of it.

Phuket's Catalogue of Needless Deaths by Drowning

Dane Drowns at Karon: Call for Safety in the Sea
Latest Latest drowning victim on Phuket is a Danish man who died on Sunday at Karon, scene of a succession of drownings this ''Summer.'' An Australian expert offers answers.
Dane Drowns at Karon: Call for Safety in the Sea

Phuket Drownings Rile Fans of World's No.4 Beach
Latest Karon rates No. 4 on a world list of ''Top 10 Beach Holidays for Families'' but it's also right up there when it comes to drownings, too. A critic lashes Phuket's lifeguard system.
Phuket Drownings Rile Fans of World's No.4 Beach

Italian Tourist Drowns at Patong: Beach Closure Call
Drowning Toll Rises Another tourist has drowned at Patong, latest victim an Italian who was having a final swim with friends before flying to Samui today. Should beaches be closed?
Italian Tourist Drowns at Patong: Beach Closure Call

Phuket Drownings: Which Beach is the Safest?
Latest Lifeguards and an accelerated training program are just part of what Phuket needs to make its beaches safe during the monsoon summer season especially.
Phuket Drownings: Which Beach is the Safest?

Phuket Drownings: Two Tourists Die After Rescues
More Deaths Two tourists on Phuket have died after being rescued from the sea in separate incidents at Patong and Karon. The deaths add to mounting concern about Summer season safety.
Phuket Drownings: Two Tourists Die After Rescues

How to Stop Beach Drownings on Phuket
Latest The arrival of lifeguards and improved rescue equipment need to be supplemented by proper warnings for those who swim on Phuket during 'Summer'.
How to Stop Beach Drownings on Phuket

Phuket Surfer Riding High at Surin: Photo Special
Photo Special Phuket beaches grow more turbulent in Summer but at one of them, Surin, an American surfer is offering a commonsense recipe for survival and fun in the sea.
Phuket Surfer Riding High at Surin: Photo Special

Comments

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IS this not Thailand, how on earth can anyone honestly expect safety? It is not within this culture.
PLEASE stay in the west if you want to live under nanny-state style bans and other unenforceable, nuisance laws.

Editor: Travellers expect international standards in the air and at all popular holiday destinations these days. The 'culture' of safety is universal.

Posted by Ex- Pat For a Reason on September 1, 2009 09:26


Tuesday October 27, 2020
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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