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Coral Reef Squadron red-flagged

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Coral Reef Squadron red-flagged | Thaiger

PHUKET CITY: The sinking of 10 decommissioned military aircraft – nicknamed the Coral Reef Squadron – to create Thailand’s largest artificial reef has been postponed until November, Tourism Authority of Thailand South Region 4 Office Director Suwalai Pinpradub announced today.

Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, K. Suwalai said that the strong winds and large waves that have arrived with the rainy season monsoon have now made it too dangerous to sink the aircraft in Bang Tao Bay.

The operation was set to begin today and wrap up with Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat and Thai celebrities attending the final-day festivities on Monday.

A date has yet to be set for the operation to continue, K. Suwalai said.

In the meantime, the four Douglas C-47 Dakota Skytrain military transport aircraft and six Sikorsky S-58T helicopters will be kept at Layan Beach until the weather improves.

The deferral of the project also follows concerns that the aircraft could be dangerous for divers if they were not properly secured to the seabed.

In response to the safety concerns, Pragon Geatgun, Vice-President of the Thai Diving Association (TDA), told the Gazette earlier today that the aircraft would be chained to large concrete blocks. “We will chain the aircraft to one-ton cement blocks with stainless-steel chain, sinking them together.

For example, the larger Dakota planes will be chained to three of the one-ton cement blocks, he said.

The aircraft will have to be sunk carefully, because the aircraft are old and very light compared with the weight of the concrete slabs, he added.

Asked who would manage the new dive site, he said a committee comprising government agencies, dive operators, the TDA, Cherng Talay Tambon Administration Organization, local people, technical experts and other groups would be formed to manage it.

“We plan to do more artificial reefs in the future. This is only the first step, so we need to have a good committee to look after this reef,” he said.

 

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