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A warning of a different kind for outgoing passengers at Phuket airport

Phuket Drownings: Time to Adopt In-Flight Warnings

Friday, September 17, 2010
Phuketwan News Analysis

AIRLINES flying to Australia are adopting an idea that has been suggested as a method of reducing Phuket's excessively high toll of needless drownings.

From November, six well-known airlines will screen a video designed to promote beach safety on flights heading to Australia. Passengers will be given advice in eight languages.

Water safety experts and Phuketwan have proposed adopting the concept for Phuket, where the number of drownings is unusually high - especially for a destination that promotes beach holidays and water-based activities.

Surf Life Saving Australia has designed an in-flight campaign to promote beach safety, with the rationale for a similar campaign applying just as strongly for Phuket.

Of 82 coastal drowning deaths in Australia for 2009-10, 32 percent were of a foreign ethnicity and 6 percent were international tourists, says a just-released National Coastal Safety Report. No direct comparisons can be struck with Phuket drowning victims. What can be said with certainty is that international tourists and Thais drown on the holiday island in unnecessarily high numbers.

There were 57 drownings on Phuket in 2009 - an appalling tally when compared with the 153 deaths on the roads, considering the number who use the roads compared with those who swim.

The comparison of 57 drownings on Phuket, an island with a population of 800,000, and 82 in Australia, an island-continent of more than 20 million people, illustrates the scale of Phuket's problem.

Improvements have been made on Phuket with 20 deaths attributed to drowning to the end of July compared to 36 at the same stage last year, although at least one additional tourist drowning was not included in that calculation.

What's needed, though, is a three-stage repetitive warning system. Adoption of the flights beach safety video about to be pioneered in Australia would save lives on Phuket - provided the warnings are repeated again when tourists check in at resorts, and a third time on the beaches.

The video on Australian flights will be screened by Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Air New Zealand, China Airlines and South African Airlines. It will be in eight languages: English, traditional and simplified Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Hindi, Malay and Arabic.

The report shows tourist and migration drownings in Australia have increased each year, with nine deaths in 2006 rising to 26 for 2009-10.

Eighty per cent of Australia's coastal drowning deaths were male, 52 percent occurred at a beach, and 43 percent occurred less than a kilometre from a life saving service. By activity, 23 percent were rock fishing, 32 percent were swimming or wading, and two per cent were caught in rip currents.

Strong surf and rip currents are the prime causes of deaths on Phuket's holiday beaches, with the monsoon-generated danger period between April and October giving way to safer swimmer-friendly conditions between November and March.

An in-flight beach safety video for Phuket could also note the other important and often overlooked essential piece of information: that the island is in a tsunami hazard zone.

It would also do a lot of good to mention the need for care in hiring jet-skis and motorcycles on Phuket, too.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


Would be nice, if Phuketwan and CNN could get their hands on the video. Would like to see it, but do not find it... :)

Posted by Lena on September 17, 2010 13:00


It's about time too! I thought of this idea in the 90s when so many Japanese visitors were drowning on Australia's tourist beaches .... Big applause due if Phuket takes this incentive on board and makes it happen for beach safety as well as jet ski safety... motor cycle safety would be another important topic, considering the amount of deaths and injuries on record due to inexperienced riders hiring out these vehicles on busy, dangerous roads.

Posted by Kerrie on September 17, 2010 17:15


Sounds like a good idea and if they could add interviews with some of the victims' families, that would be good too.

Posted by Anonymous on September 18, 2010 13:48


In flight education is a fantastic idea. Probably the best chance of getting a vacationer's attention. Certainly there should be warnings offered in hotels, etc., but on the plane there are far fewer distractions than after arrival. I hope this plan is adopted.

Posted by Doretta on September 20, 2010 05:48

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