In Phuket, a ban has been issued on boats shorter than 10 metres leaving the shore until Saturday, June 10, due to heavy weather conditions. The order, issued by Phuket Marine Office Chief Natchaphong Pranit, applies to all sailing and motor yachts up to 32.8 feet. The ban comes as a reminder of the importance of safety measures in the maritime industry, particularly in light of the Phoenix tragedy’s fifth anniversary.
On June 5, 2018, the tour boat Phoenix capsized and sank in stormy conditions south of Phuket, resulting in the loss of 47 Chinese tourists. This incident remains Thailand’s worst modern maritime disaster.
In line with the order, all boat operators must strictly follow the authorities’ directives and closely monitor weather updates during this period of strong winds and high waves. Natchaphong cited a weather warning from the Thai Meteorological Department (TMD), which predicts strong wind waves in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand due to a southwest monsoon and an active low-pressure cell covering the coast of Myanmar.
As a result, waves in the upper Andaman Sea are expected to reach heights of 2-3 meters and over 3 meters in thunderstorm areas. In the upper Gulf of Thailand, wave height is anticipated to be around 2 meters, increasing to over 6 meters in thunderstorm areas. Boat operators in both regions are advised to exercise caution and avoid sailing in thunderstorm zones. Small boats in the upper Andaman Sea must remain ashore until June 10, and people are encouraged to follow the Meteorological Department’s announcements closely.
Boat operators are also urged to thoroughly inspect their vessels, including checking the hull’s condition, boat engine readiness, and the availability of safety equipment and tools reports Phuket News.
“Life-saving equipment, life vests, fire-fighting equipment and communication devices must be readily available and ship captains must assess the weather along their sea route and keep track of the news and alerts from the Meteorological Department and government agencies that are closely related and strictly follow the instructions of the supervisor and officials for safety,” Natchaphong concluded.
At 5am today (June 7), the Phuket-based Southern Meteorological Center (West Coast) reissued its weather warning for Phuket and the surrounding area. The weather alert no longer mentions typhoon ‘Mawar’ but still warns of a “rather strong southwest monsoon prevailing over the upper Andaman Sea and Southern Thailand’s west coast.”
“People should beware of severe weather conditions and stay tuned for further weather alerts,” the announcement stressed.
Phuket has already recorded five drownings since the beginning of the severe weather period in late May. The death toll includes two tourists from Kazakhstan, one tourist from Russia, one fisherman from Myanmar, and one fisherman from Thailand.
The deaths of the three tourists have been attributed to ignoring red flags on the beaches and going for a swim, despite it being strictly prohibited. Severe weather conditions are understood to be a crucial factor in all five cases.
Following the first death on May 27, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew urged beach visitors to adhere to red flags and not enter the dangerous surf. Governor Narong also called on lifeguards to enhance enforcement of the ‘no swimming’ rule in hazardous areas and take necessary measures to ensure public safety.
Governor Narong did not elaborate on what lifeguards can and can’t do when foolhardy swimmers put themselves at risk. Back in 2016, Phuket Lifeguard Service Founder Prathaiyuth Chuayuan explained that his men do not have any legal power to physically stop people from entering the water. At the same time, they would have to risk their own lives if a person ignores verbal warnings and starts drowning. “We would never refuse to help someone that is drowning. Even if we have told them many times not to go into the water, if they get into trouble, we will rescue them,” Prathaiyuth said at that time.
The much-respected founding father of Phuket Lifeguard Service died after suffering a heart attack at the age of 57 in 2019. Phuket beach lifeguards honour his legacy by saving lives every day.
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