PHUKET, 14 August 2018: The lifeguard tower at Kata Beach and watch-station tent at Nai Yang Beach were both destroyed by strong waves at the weekend according to a report in Phuket News.
The online news services reiterated that “official support for Phuket’s lifeguards” appears to fall short.
The absence of trained lifeguards to patrol the island’s west coast beaches could put tourists at serious risk a lifeguard expert warned.
A funding shortage and disputes over contracts have virtually ended beach lifeguard presence at most beaches at a time of the year when monsoon storms make swimming off west coast beaches extremely hazardous.
Every year visitors drown mainly due to them failing to abide by red flag warnings. However, the chances of them being rescued by trained lifeguards has diminished as local authorities either failed to contract services, or omitted to allow trained volunteer lifeguards to patrol beaches, according to critics.
Tour companies worldwide and online travel services should warn their customers not to swim at Phuket’s west coast beaches until the end of the monsoon season in early November. Under no circumstances should visitors ignore red flags flying at beaches even if the sea looks calm and inviting. There are deadly currents and undertows.
Beach erosion caused by heavy waves sweeping up the beach destroyed the lifeguard tower at Kata bay while a lifeguard station tent at Nai Yang Beach was swept out to sea.
Phuket News reported that lifeguards carried out a rescue 11 August, although it was not confirmed if the swimmer survived.
That rescue came less than 24 hours after a man was pulled from the deadly surf unconscious at Nai Harn Beach, in the south of the island, 10 August.
A foreign couple led the efforts to carry out CPR on the man as tourists looked on. Again, the fate of that swimmer was not confirmed according to Phuket News.
The news service said “both drowning incidents highlighted how Phuket’s fractured lifeguard coverage has left lethal gaps in the lifeguard competency to protect people from the surf during the southwest monsoon months May through October.”
There have been almost daily incidents even on beaches where red flags fly. It is thought that people have become accustomed to them and ignore the risks.
Lifeguards could warn tourist through pre-recorded loudspeaker announcements from watchtowers. The warnings could be recorded in English, Russian, Korean and Chinese.
In some of the recent accidents onlookers and tourists on the beach came to the rescue. In one instance a young boy in a group of six drowned, while a Norwegian national saved two of the boys, while the three other boys were able to extricate themselves from the heavy surf.
Phuket News says officials decline to comment on the lack of lifeguard services at beaches.
The International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA) has repeatedly called for the complete closure of all Phuket’s exposed west coast beaches to swimmers until current dangerous conditions subside.
ISLA’s Daren Jenner warned that overuse of red “No Swimming” flags posted all along beaches would lead to people ignoring them simply because they are posted everywhere.