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Phuket rescue drill targets sea safety



PHUKET: Emergency service agencies staged their annual coordinated sea rescue drill off Phuket’s east coast yesterday, simulating a tourist boat catching fire after colliding with a cargo ship.

The exercise aimed to improve coordination among a battery of rescue personnel from different agencies, including police, health officials and hospital staff, the Royal Thai Navy, local administration organizations and related departments from Phang Nga and Krabi.

Heading the simulation was the Phuket office of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM).

“The simulation was a tourist boat loaded with passengers departing from Ao Por Pier to Phang Nga Bay. The boat crashed into a cargo ship because of strong winds,” explained Mongkol Temrat, DDPM-Phuket’s policy and planning analyst.

During the simulation, the crew tried to extinguish the burning boats, but failed.

The crew then called 191 and witnesses on shore called Pa Khlok Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor).

Simulating a scenario too big for Thalang police and the OrBorTor to handle, the Mayor in turn called in the Royal Thai Navy and emergency response departments for help.

EMS teams arrived and rescue teams on speedboats and dinghies came to the rescue.

“The ‘injured’ were taken for triage at a mobile hospital set up on the pier, staffed with medical teams from Vachira, Mission, Bangkok and Phuket International hospitals,” said Mr Mongkol.

“The ‘casualties’ for the day were 25 people injured and three people reported missing,” he added.

No helicopters were used in the exercise this year.

“We wanted to focus on the response by emergency medical service teams specifically in case no helicopters were available to render assistance,” explained DDPM-Phuket chief Udomporn Karn.

Staff from the Karon Municipality Sea Rescue Center, which has had to cope with two major sea search and rescue operations in the past three weeks, were included in the exercise.

“Our rescue team was in the exercise today. We learned much more about working as a team in conducting rescues,” said Supachai Junphet, chief of the center.

He said saving tourists from drowning at Karon Beach had become a top priority.

“We will hold a meeting soon to discuss how to help prevent tourists from drowning or at least what we can do to make swimming at Karon Beach safer,” he said.

DDPM-Phuket chief Udomporn praised the Karon center for its impact so far at what is fast gaining a reputation as Phuket’s most dangerous beach.

“They can handle rescue situations by themselves. They have their own rescue center and Navy officers in charge who have a lot of rescue experience. We had to learn from them,” he said.

— Chutharat Plerin


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