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Phuket beach deaths: Airlines, airport could help cut the toll

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Phuket beach deaths: Airlines, airport could help cut the toll | Thaiger

PHUKET: The full onset of this year’s monsoon season has brought with it a sadly predictable rise in the number of drowning deaths, most among foreign tourists who ignored not only the red warning flags, but also, in some cases, verbal warnings from lifeguards about the dangers.

The latest casualty was a Romanian tourist who, like so many before him, entered the surf unaware of the magnitude of the risk. (See front page story, current [July 31] issue of the Phuket Gazette. Digital subscribers click here.)

Reporting the never-ending string of drowning deaths is depressing work indeed. Most of the victims are here on holiday, often with family and friends whose Phuket experience turns into a nightmare in a matter of moments.

Equally depressed must be the island’s 17 honorary consuls. Almost all of them have had to personally experience dealing with bereaved families, arranging funeral services or repatriating the remains of people who, in many cases, were in the prime of life when they were dragged out to sea for their holiday death.

But the depression experienced by local journalists and volunteer diplomatic staff pales in comparison to that of the island’s lifeguards, whose frustration boiled over last week with an unprecedented charge against hotel owners on the island for not doing enough to warn their guests of the dangers.

While it is unrealistic to expect to reduce the number of drowning deaths to zero, we need to do our best to come up with new ways to get the message across to tourists about how treacherous surf conditions can be at this time of year.

Red flags, verbal warnings and signs are obviously not enough. Their intended messages are sadly ignored on an island where newcomers’ senses are constantly bombarded with garish commercial signage and rude, in-your-face touting.

That being the case, here are some ideas that might help get the needed message across.

First, and as recommended in this space several times in the past, would be to have the captains of incoming commercial flights to clearly spell out the dangers over their PA systems.

Tourists enjoying a day at the beach might tune out the lifeguards along with trinket vendors and time-share touts, but they are likely to heed the words of an airline pilot while they sit captive at 30,000 feet.

Most, if not all, airlines bound for Thailand warn passengers of the death penalty for drugs. But for the millions of holidaymakers arriving in Phuket, the risk of death by drowning is surely far, far greater.

Second, create a “memorial wall” to tourists whose lives have been needlessly lost. Don’t put it on some beach, but inside the baggage pick-up area at the airport, along with a video presenting the grim statistics and other relevant information. While this might not be the most uplifting of starts to a tourist’s visit, it would certainly help reduce the body count in our annual monsoon harvests of beach death.

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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