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Special Report: Breaching walls for Phuket tsunami safety

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Special Report: Breaching walls for Phuket tsunami safety | The Thaiger
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SPECIAL REPORT: Tsunami evacuation drills have become part of Phuket life since the devastating waves struck our shores in 2004. But has familiarity bred contempt for safety in the west coast village of Kamala? The Phuket Gazette reports.

PHUKET: Phuket recently hosted a full-scale tsunami drill (story here), with rescue workers practicing the actions they would take should a wall of water hit the island’s beaches once more.

Meanwhile, a stationary wall in Kamala – 150 meters long and running parallel to the beach – has struck fears into the hearts of locals that their own escape from an impending tsunami is blocked.

“Right now, all the shop owners along the Kamala beachfront are worried that they will not have enough time to run to safety if a tsunami comes,” said village chief Wattanaporn “Chai” Sanay, who survived the tsunami in 2004.

The wall in question runs 150m, end-to-end, behind the local police station and stops any direct retreat from the beach.

It belongs to the person who owns the land behind the station, and the authorities admit they are powerless to order the owner to pull it down.

“I have received many complaints from villagers about the wall behind the Kamala Police
Station,” Nopporn Karuna, a vice president of the Kamala Tambon Administrative Organization (OrBorTor), told the Gazette.

“It used to be open for everyone to walk through, but now it is closed and people are not
allowed to pass,” he said.

“I know it is private land, so we cannot order the owner to pull it down. The owner has every right to have that wall on his own land,” explained Mr Nopporn, who has been given full responsibility for all aspects for tsunami evacuation drills in Kamala.

With escape access across the private land now blocked, tsunami evacuation signs direct people fleeing a tsunami to follow the street for 250 meters – paralleling the beachfront, not going away from it.

Another chief concern is that the crowds of people who gather in the area between the police station and the beach every Friday for the local market would be penned in by the wall.

The Gazette was shown one gate at the northern end of the wall. The gate, although padlocked, is a flimsy wooden frame marked “Private”.

It is down a narrow unmarked lane on hotel property, about 150m from where the busy market is held each week, making it very easy to miss by people fleeing for their lives.

“All we ask is for the owner to put a gate in the middle of the wall to make us feel safer,” Mr Wattanaporn pleaded.

“I know the owner of the land does not want everyone to come onto his property. I understand. I don’t want to trespass, either,” said Mr Wattanaporn.

“A gate would be used for tsunami evacuation only. Anyone who has not faced this situation would not know how we feel,” he added.

“When a tsunami comes, you just run. In 2004, my wife and I ran wearing just our sarongs. We ran as fast as we could. We left everything behind,” Mr Wattanaporn said.

ANOTHER WALL

The southern wall on Kamala Beach isn’t the only one causing concern.

A second wall, nearly two meters tall and stretching 440m along the Kamala beachfront, frightened a Swedish tourist so much that in an email to the Gazette he vowed not to return:

“I have been visiting Kamala for many years, but now I think this will probably be my last,” he said.

“What should happen to people on the beach if a tsunami comes? As far as I can tell they would be caught in a mousetrap! This is nearly unbelievable. How can this be allowed to happen?

“Thank you for many years of pleasure; now it’s over,” he said.

How many other tourists have felt the same – and vowed not to come back – the Gazette has no way of knowing.

This second wall makes up the ocean-facing perimeter of the Kamala Islamic Cemetery at the north end of the beach. A pathway 2.5m wide runs next to the wall and is kept clear as a tsunami evacuation route, said Mr Nopporn of the Kamala OrBorTor.

“We have posted signs to let everyone know which way to run,” he added.

Local lifeguard Jaturong Wichien, 29, who survived the 2004 tsunami, agreed.

“When the tsunami came [in 2004], I did not jump over the wall. I just used the walkway around it. But it wasn’t as tall as it is now. After the tsunami, the Kamala OrBorTor made it higher,” he said.

“The wall now is still not too high, though. Most people would be able to jump it and run to the road,” he added, still noting that the wall stood nearly two meters tall.

Mr Jaturong also pointed out that there were two gates along the beachfront wall.

“The gates are pulled closed, but they are not locked. Anyone at anytime can pull the gates open and run through,” he said.

Whether people are aware of the potential tsunami escape routes through the gates remains in doubt.

The Gazette saw no signs indicating the gates were unlocked and may be used in case of emergency.

FAITH

Mr Nopporn of the Kamala OrBortor urged people to have faith in Phuket’s tsunami warning sirens and the evacuation plans in place.

“We stage a tsunami evacuation drill once a year; please trust our system. The sirens will sound the alarm about an hour before a tsunami would arrive, but it takes only 10 to 15 minutes to evacuate everyone to a safe place,” he said.

The Kamala OrBorTor has established three safe zone assembly points, Mr Nopporn said.

“One is on Kuan Yak Hill, near the Andara Resort and Villa. It is on high ground. Another is near Laem Singh Beach, where we are building a shelter to store first-aid supplies. The third is at Hua Khuan village near Phuket FantaSea,” he explained.

“You can also run to Rajaprachanugroh School [near the south end of the beach] in case you cannot make it to the safe zones. The school is four-stories tall and was built very strong after the tsunami,” Mr Nopporn assured the Gazette.

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

Thailand

UPDATE: Confusion over Covid-19 tests for visa extensions

Caitlin Ashworth

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UPDATE: Confusion over Covid-19 tests for visa extensions | The Thaiger

UPDATE: Khaosod English removed a story on Covid-19 tests for those seeking visa extensions and replaced it with the article “Immigration backtracks on plan to require Covid-19 test for visa extensions.” They say the previous report sparked uproar among expats and immigration police spokesperson has since apologised for the misunderstanding.

Original article…

Confusion reigns today over whether Covid-19 tests will be required for visa extensions. While The Phuket News spoke with an immigration official who said “no… you don’t need a Covid-19 test to extend your visa or apply for a work permit”, Khaosod English wrote an article headlined “Covid-19 test will be mandatory for all visa extension”.

The Thaiger also contacted a respected visa agent who said Covid-19 tests are, indeed, now required for applying for both visa extensions and work permits, even renewals.

The Thai Immigration Bureau has not made any official announcement regarding Covid-19 tests. Talk about Covid-19 tests for foreigners was brought up after a rule was published in the Royal Gazette last month, officially adding Covid-19 to a list of dangerous diseases, prohibiting those infected with any of the listed illnesses from entering the country.

Immigration Police Bureau spokesperson Archayon Kraithong told Khaosod English that proof of a negative Covid-19 test will be required for visa extensions, regardless of how long a foreigner has stayed in Thailand. On the other hand, Phuket immigration deputy chief Nareuwat Putthawiro told The Phuket News that Covid-19 tests will not be required for visa extensions or work permit applications.

“We do not require any medical documents for an application to renew a visa, because there are few foreigners’ movements outside Phuket. Most of them live and work in Phuket, and have done so before the new wave of Covid-19… So they do not have to worry about it. Everything is still the same.”

Medical exams are currently already required for most work permit applicants (including tests for Syphilis and Elephantiasis). A visa agent told The Thaiger that Covid-19 tests have been added to the medical examination requirements for work permit applicants. But, on the other hand, Phuket immigration says they DO NOT require Covid-19 tests for work permit applicants.

“We have not received any notices about Covid-19 requirements for processing applications to renew visas. If we do receive any such orders, we will let the public know.”

It isn’t the first time there has been conflicting statements coming out of different officials, in different immigration offices on different days.

SOURCES: Phuket News| Khaosod English

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Visitors to Phuket from “highest risk” areas must show Covid-19 test results

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Visitors to Phuket from “highest risk” areas must show Covid-19 test results | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

People arriving Phuket from the “highest risk” areas are required to take a swab test by the staff at emergency operation centres (EOC) or show the test result document endorsed by the EOC staff made within 72 hours of their arrival. The revised order is effective from now until January 31, according to the Phuket Governor.

Those people who are on a brief business trip to Phuket need to show certificates from their employers describing the reason and necessity of their trips. If they want to leave their accommodations, they have to make a request to the EOC and clearly explain the reason as well as the time and destination. Visitors are also asked to avoid going to the community areas to avoid crowded gatherings.

It is noted that the revised order by the governor has not been officially promoted by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department. However, all visitors are still asked to register online via the Mor Chana contact tracing application and via www.gophuget.com according to the order re-issued on Friday.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Tourism

The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint

The Thaiger

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The road less travelled – trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | The Thaiger

There are two well known ways to get from Kathu to Kalim or Kamala – one is across the Patong Hill, and the other is much longer, through Srisoonthorn and along the coastal road from Surin the Kamala (very scenic too).

But there’s also another way. Also very scenic but will take you about 2 hours through dense forest although there is a well-worn walking track. The track will take you from Kathu up to the Kalim Viewpoint. From here you can head back to Kathu along a different path, or down into Kalim, near Patong.

Starting about halfway down Soi Namtok in Kathu, you head up a nondescript road past the Flying Hanuman zipline attraction, although there’s no sign at the entrance to the soi (below). About the first kilometre is paved but then becomes increasingly ‘agricultural’ as you get higher into the hills, heading towards the Kalim Viewpoint. There’s also a small temple on the way up.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: The start of the trek, a small soi off Soi Namtok – Google Maps

It will take around 2 hours to trek up to the Kalim Viewpoint. The walking is quite strenuous and you’ll need to be wearing the right shoes and take plenty of water – there’s no 7/11s on the way! As you get nearer the top, to the viewpoint, the track becomes less drivable although the track is still quite open and easy to follow. If you’re feeling a bit lazy you can take a motorbike about halfway up the road until you’ll need to proceed on foot from there.

From the Kalim Viewpoint you can see across Kalim to Patong Bay and the land that stretches along the bay south of Patong Beach. From the top you can either make your way down to Kalim or another exit along the Kalim-Kamala Road, just near the Iguana Beach Club.

You can also head back another way to Kathu, a longer return track that skirts around the top of the Kathu Waterfall. A lot of that track gets very narrow and parts of it are up and down the hills, some of it very steep.

The views are amazing and you get to see a vast swathe of Phuket, still very close to popular locations like Patong, Kamala and Kathu, but untouched by any civilisation.

You’ll need to be in reasonable health to take on the trip but, just to go up to the Kalim Viewpoint and back, or down into Kalim, should take around 5 hours in total. On a scale of 1 – 5 for difficulty, we’d rate it a 3. An easy trek for experienced people but will need a bit of planning if you’re not an experienced trekker.

Even on a hazy day, as it was today, the views were amazing. But best to start off early morning when the weather is cooler. Well worth the time for the views and the opportunity to see more of Phuket, away from the bars and beaches.

Thanks to BT for the pics and information.

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The ThaigerThe road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

The road less travelled - trekking to the Kalim Viewpoint | News by The Thaiger

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