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Surin beach, where commercial  ventures crowd the sand

Phuket Russian Rescues Raise Swim Alert Issue

Monday, October 18, 2010
PHUKET drowning figures have improved dramatically with just 24 deaths recorded to the end of September, compared to 47 at the same time last year.

Newly-released statistics also reveal today that one drowning was recorded in September 2010 compared to five last year.

However, the death of a Russian tourist at Surin beach yesterday highlighted unresolved issues including slow reaction times, lack of suitable equipment, and lack of warnings that go beyond English and Thai.

Russians appear to be particularly at risk - or especially prepared to take risks - at this time of year.

The ambulance called to attend to the tourist who died at Surin beach took more than 20 minutes to arrive, bystanders told Phuketwan. This is not surprising as the vehicle had to travel from Thalang Hospital, about six kilometres away.

One resort manager said today that while Surin is surrounded by five-star resorts and expensive properties, its beach safety efforts fall below the standards that international tourists have come expect.

''The support of the local government is nowhere to be seen,'' the resort manager said. ''Phuket's tourism industry lives and dies by the quality of care of visitors and the condition of its beaches.

''Foremost is safety, next is cleanliness. The local government takes, but does not contribute.''

Lifeguard training and transparency have improved but reaction times remain variable because of lack of sufficient numbers and lack of quality equipment.

Surin has an allocation of five lifeguards, with about 600 metres of beach to oversee. A lifeguard spokesperson said today that they were quickly on the scene, coming from 300 metres away, after tourists had seen the lifeless body of the man in the water and reached him.

The man was reportedly last seen standing chest-deep, and at age 55 may have been the victim of a heart attack. However, the death of the Russian tourist raised the issue of warnings to people who do not speak English or Thai.

Lifeguards also pulled two Russians and two Germans from the water at Nai Harn yesterday, along with two Russians who were rescued at Karon beach.

Two more Russians had to be rescued at Nai Thon beach the day before, the lifeguard spokesperson said.

A second lifeguard spokesperson said the group of Russians who came to Phuket with the dead man had been warned two days in a row about the dangers at Surin, but persisted in going into the water despite the red flags.

People who run businesses on the sand at Surin sometimes also shifted the red flags, the lifeguard spokesperson said.

Another manager of a resort close to Surin beach said that despite the commercialisation of the beach and its coverage with other flags and banners, red flags there were usually plentiful and easy to see.

A spokesperson at the Russian Embassy in Bangkok said today that efforts were being made to contact the family of the man who died at Surin.
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Comments

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"People who run businesses on the sand at Surin sometimes also shifted the red flags, the lifeguard spokesperson said."

In many places this is considered a criminal act. Should someone die as result of this act, then the perpetrator might face a much more serious manslaughter charge.

Posted by Treelover on October 18, 2010 15:34

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It can be done in Thailand, In Koh Chang they have warning notices in Thai English, German, Russian about rips, why can't it be done here? Also hotels and guesthouses should handout warning leaflets in the customers' native tongue, something useful the orbortor can do with its Hotel Tax

Posted by Michael on October 19, 2010 09:28

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Death by drowning as is death by any cause, always a sad situation and moreso if such death could be avoided. However when a drowning occurs, all of the reactionary finger pointing at inadequate lifeguard services at Phuket's beaches, lack of rescue equipment, slow response times of emergency services is frankly, on its own, quite unhelpful.

Yes, as a resident of Phuket, I agree that all of the above needs attention and improvement, as do the need to enforce the wearing of safety helmets by motor cycle riders and their pillion passengers, stopping the littering of our beaches by users etc, and the list goes on and on.

All of these need to be addressed proactively and with absolute commitment by the responsible bodies/parties, including the public if we are to get these things right or at least to acceptable international standards.

The reality is, with the best will in the world, all the above will take time to achieve meanwhile swimmers who disregard red-flag warnings at beaches, particularly during the rainy season when our western beaches can have quite treacherous currents, will drown from time to time and this should come as no surprise and this is not meant as a flippant remark but rather it is a reality.

I have personally witnessed on occasions, swimmers blatantly ignoring lifeguard warnings not to enter the water due to the unsafe conditions. Unless the lifeguards are given the powers of physical restraint and or arrest, I am not sure what else is expected of them other than to monitor as many of these reckless individuals as possible whilst they are swimming where they should not be and respond as best they can in case of emergency.

Please, whoever the competent authority in this matter is, act urgently on this matter of drownings at our Phuket beaches taking all necessary measures to create a safer environment for swimmers. I would suggest in doing this, one of the first things to focus on is to create a comprehensive safety advice/warning program in whatever form/s to beach users. I am no expert on how you would do this but, whilst the relevant authorities work on all matters related to safe use of our beaches and minimise the number of drownings, if all beach users are warned of when they must not enter the water, then those that do so, do at risk to their personal safety and we should accept that there will always be individuals who regard themselves as 'bullet-proof'.

Let us also not forget that the life guards are also quite vulnerable to treacherous waters, and that their own lives should not unnecessarily put at risk by reckless and irresponsible beach users.

Posted by peter on October 25, 2010 12:56


Sunday April 21, 2019
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa

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