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Lifeguards train on Nai Harn beach, near what could be a safety centre

Phuket Beaches Danger Alert But Swim Safety Centre Still on Hold

Saturday, July 20, 2013
PHUKET: Lifeguards are warning that the next few days on Phuket may bring conditions similar to the four days late last month when five swimmers drowned at beaches.

The beach guardians' frustrations are mounting because local authorities still fail to support simple measures that would save lives, improve skills and raise community awareness.

Conditions in the surf at Phuket's beaches are predicted to be at the most dangerous between Monday and Sunday next week.

Red flags declare no swimming but if the sun is shining, some tourists are likely to want to swim regardless of the dangers.

The Surin-Bangtao Surf Lifesaving Club is suggesting ''double red flag days'' to denote exceptional danger and resort managements are being asked to help by warning guests about the risks.

Lifeguards and water safety experts on Phuket would like to see greater awareness of the dangers at the beaches all year long.

They recommend a triple warning system so that arriving tourists are warned at the airport, in person on check-in and again when they go to a beach intent on swimming, even if red flags are flying.

Phuket's lifeguards are frustrated by the lack of commitment by authorities to a community approach to saving lives.

As well as this year's horror stretch of five drownings in four days, eight drownings occurred on Phuket's beaches between mid-May and mid-July last year.

Measures that could lead to more lives being saved continue to be rejected by local administrators.

Phuket's tragic toll could have been six deaths in five days if two young Australian board riders, Tiarnee Massie, 12, and Grace Kaihau, 13, had not rescued expat beach-lover Laszlo Dombovary from the water at Kata on June 24.

Laslo was thrilled to be saved. He wrote a letter to the youngsters' Australian lifesaving club - republished in Phuketwan - in praise of the two young lifesavers, who are what's known as ''nippers.''

Lifeguards and water safety experts want to be able to train young ''nipper'' lifeguards on Phuket, too, but local administrations are placing needless obstacles in their path.

''We have a financial commitment from the Australia-Thailand Institute to establish a learning centre at Nai Harn beach in a disused sala there but the local authorities fail to see the merit in the proposal,'' a spokeswoman for the Phuket Lifeguard Service said today.

Prathaiyuth ''Pik'' Chuayuan said that efforts to create the centre had been pursued for almost two years since the then Australian Embassy's Deputy Head of Mission, Simon Farbenbloom, visited Phuket to announce the grant.

The Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation, which funds the lifeguards, has deferred to the local Rawai Council over the proposed safety centre, in a park on the foreshore.

On May 27, the Phuket Lifeguard Service sent a letter to the council noting that if the council preferred, instead of ''owning'' the centre the Lifeguard Service would be prepared to lease it, much as restaurants nearby are leased.

On June 27, the administrative organisation replied that Rawai Council had held a meeting about the application, but that a decision had yet to be made.

As an island with popular beaches, Phuket really needs to develop a culture among children from a young age - just as in Australia and California - where lifesaving clubs are cultural icons and a way of life.

That won't happen unless the apathy of local authorities can be overcome first.

Other groups - including Phuket Public Health and the Phuket Marine Biological Centre - have noted that the Nai Harn centre would be ideal for educating communities from Phuket and other Andaman provinces about marine life and all aspects of water safety.

Training of Phuket's lifeguards has improved greatly from the days when residents were sure to find west coast beach guards asleep in towers.

Perhaps the best example of community involvement on Phuket is Le Meridien Resort, where staff led by Jayne MacDougall, the Director of Risk Management, conduct annual training courses for lifeguards from other resorts with Australian lifesaving veteran David Field playing a key role.

The administrative organisation and Rawai council should take note and react in Phuket's best interests.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


The only building that should be allowed constructed on a beach should be a life saving club about 4 would do it on the popular beaches that would be just too sensible,works in Australia there also allowed to operate a kiosk to fund it non profit,and the thais now have a government grant to do it,could be all too easy & serve tourism provide a sporting outlet and the communitys best interests,Phukets drownings in a year exceeds australias national toll over decades,seems there no baht in it to go in someones pocket,no surprise its a financial committment or the money be gone and there would be no infrastructure to show for it,a life saving club on the beach with a observation deck training and education facilitys would be far more useful than illegal cafes massage beds deck chairs and umbrellas.

Posted by slickmelb on July 21, 2013 10:29

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