Aussie family narrowly avoids drowning in Phuket

KARON, PHUKET: A family of Australian tourists who ignored red warning flags narrowly escaped drowning at Karon Beach on Tuesday afternoon.

Chalong Police identified the victims as Mr Samir Mourad, 58, his daughter Zeinab, 16, and Mr Mourad’s wife, whose first name and age were not reported.

According to the report, Mr Mourad was sunbathing while his wife and daughter entered the heavy surf, despite the fact that red warning flags were clearly visible in the area.

The mother and daughter were soon pulled out to sea by a rip tide and began calling for help.

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Mr Mourad heard their shouts and went in the water to help. He was able to reach his wife and bring her safely back to shore.

Going back in for his daughter, he became too exhausted and the two-meter-high waves kept pushing him under.

Local residents saw what was happening and notified Chalong Police.

Using a boat, rescue workers from the Karon Hazard Prevention Unit and the Phuket Tourist Rescue Center rushed to the scene to save the girl.

It took the boat nearly 25 minutes to get safely back to shore, after which all three family members were rushed to hospital.

It was not reported which hospital the family were taken to or who was admitted, but Mrs Mourad, released soon after arrival, returned to the family’s hotel to bring some belongings to the hospital.

Karon Mayor Tawee Tongcham commented that drownings at west coast beaches are common during the monsoon season, despite the red flags put up cautioning people not to enter the surf.

In past seasons, members of the PPAO beach guard have been posted at beaches to warn people entering the surf of the dangers. However, this year no beach guards have been on duty and it is not clear when the service will resume, he said.

The contract to run the PPAO beach guard program, put in place under former PPAO President Anchalee Vanich Thepabutr, was last year put up for tender under the new administration of Paiboon Upatising, but with much stricter terms of reference.

These included that beach guard workers be properly trained and have certification in life-saving techniques.

No company was able to meet the terms of reference, so the PPAO offered to allow local administration organizations to set up and run their own beach guard programs with PPAO funding if they could find enough certified staff.

It is not known how many local government units have done so, if any.

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