“The beginning of June historically marks the start of southwest monsoon season on Phuket. This year, mother nature decided otherwise. So far, at least. Inter-monsoon conditions prevail over the Andaman coast, which can bring rain one week, and warm, fair conditions the next week. As surf danger season looms, Mother Nature will decide when it finally arrives,” Mr Jenner told The Phuket News.
“Meanwhile, the PPAO (Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation, or OrBorJor) and the Governor seem to have lost all control over Phuket’s lifeguard system. The promised doubling of funds for lifeguard services to over B40 million on Phuket seems to have evaporated, much like the water in the reservoirs at the end of high season.
“As one former Phuket lifeguard captain put it, ‘It’s already too late’. The window to hire, train, and deploy Phuket's upgraded lifeguard force this year is closed and locked tight,” Mr Jenner pointed out.
Phuket’s lifeguard patrols fell into disarray in 2017 after Norraphat Plodthong, the Phuket Governor at the time, ordered all local administrations to organise their own lifeguards.
That order was hoped to resolve the issue of the PPAO failing to secure full-time lifeguards to patrol Phuket’s beaches during the dangerous southwest monsoon season. (See story here.)
The PPAO had failed to attract a single bid for the government contract offered, presumably for the same reason that the Phuket Lifeguard Service (PLS) refused to place it s bid, despite the PLS providing lifeguards on Phuket’s beaches for more than a decade – the budget offered simply was not enough to pay for the lifeguard services provided.
However, instead of resolving Phuket’s lifeguard crisis, Governor Norraphat’s order has left Phuket’s guard patrols fragmented. Drowning deaths at Phuket’s beaches last year doubled and an official investigation into alleged corruption into the issuing of a contract to provide lifeguards at central and northern beaches on Phuket’s west coast now underway. (See story here.)
“There will likely be very little warning when the persistent southwest monsoon starts in earnest. It can happen overnight. At present, only Patong and Nai Harn beaches have qualified lifeguards patrolling the sands,” Mr Jenner explained today (June 4).
“The calm before the storm that Phuket is enjoying will not last much longer. The rough ocean conditions that claim so many lives each year are right around the corner. As surf danger season is likely days or weeks away, Phuket's beach safety system is off the clock.
“Coordination between lifeguards and other safety agencies is also not in place. Despite ever-rising tourist arrivals, the level of Phuket’s lifeguard coverage coming into danger season is the lowest in 10 years,” he added.
“Unlike some public safety lapses that take their toll years or decades later, like building collapses due to lack of code enforcement, the effect of no lifeguard coverage on Phuket’s beaches is felt almost immediately,” Mr Jenner warned.
“As soon as the rough conditions begin, the drownings begin. So far, this year has the potential to produce the highest drowning toll we have seen for some time. It's now up to Mother Nature,” he said.