PHUKET: A Phuketwan survey along Phuket's holiday west coast today showed massive damage to some beaches, perhaps inflicting wounds worse than during the 2004 tsunami.
While the big wave of December 26 2004 swept the beaches and left them clean of almost everything, yesterday's monsoon surf tore the beaches to bits, depositing the sand inland in the case of Kamala or ripping it back out to sea at Surin and Kata.
More damage was reported further south on Phuket at Nai Harn and Rawai, where sea walls took a heavy battering.
The tourists? As with the tsunami, people who had paid for a beach holiday were determined to take it.
Plenty of people dressed for swimming were evident on Phuket's battered beaches today, even though the beaches were a long way from what appears in tourist brochures and sunshine was nowhere to be seen.
Part of the problem is that Phuket is marketed as a year-round destination when this year's exceptional monsoon storms have proven that May-June and probably September-October will not necessarily fulfill holiday dreams.
Meanwhile, concerns will swing to the beaches themselves. After the 2004 tsunami, recovery came fairly swiftly. This time, it may take longer . . . and in any case, it rests entirely with the sea.
What the tsunami presented for Phuket in 2004 was a chance to start over again, to keep the beaches clear of lounges and vendors, and to put in place better management systems for protecting the sand.
Surin beach will need major work. Concrete stairways have been torn to pieces. Some of the other beautiful beaches, now battered beyond belief, will also need major surgery.
Where will the money come from?
With so much private commercialisation of all Phuket's beaches, Phuketwan has suggested the establishment of a single Phuket Beach Authority to licence businesses, and to put the money back into protection of the beaches rather than the pockets of local council officials.
On what the sea told us yesterday, it still sounds like a good idea if Phuket wants to ensure its future as a popular beach destination with natural beauty at its heart.