Meanwhile, Tourism and Sports Permanent Secretary Pongpanu Svetarundra in Phuket yesterday (July 12) revealed that that Chinese tourist advance bookings in Phuket have been slammed with 10-15% cancellations.
Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong as Chief of the Disaster Command Centre set up at Chalong Pier explained at a press briefing yesterday that efforts by divers to recover the body from under the Phoenix were called off because of strong wind and waves.
Vice Admiral Somnuk Preampramot, Commander of the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command, based at Cape Panwa, said that he expected, “We would have good news (today) because of nice weather which will allow us to recover the body.”
V/Adm Somnuk noted that the recovery team comprised Royal Thai Navy divers, 10 divers from the Chinese firm Guangzhou Salvage as well as involvement by the Thai Fisheries Department, Marine Department, Marine Police, as well as the “private sector and people”.
Governor Norraphat noted that officials are confident that the body is that of the last missing tourist sought from the disaster after receiving details provided by relatives.
Meanwhile, the body found at Phi Phi Island on Wednesday (July 11, see story here) has been taken to Vachira Phuket Hospital in the hope of confirming that person’s identity, Gov Norraphat added.
At the press briefing yesterday Tourism and Sports Permanent Secretary Mr Pongpanu expressed his condolences to the victims for disaster, and noted the deep impact such an incident can have on Thailand’s – and Phuket’s – tourism industry.
“Chinese tourists are the most important market in Thailand. This incident has had a huge impact, including physically, mentally and economically,” he said.
“Each year, 10 million Chinese tourists come to Thailand and spend more than B500 billion. From this number, about 3mn visit Phuket and spend about B150 billion,” Mr Pngpanu explained.
“Currently, it is unclear whether the number of tourist arrivals will decrease, through there has already been about 10-15% in cancellations of advance bookings,” he added.
“We believe that from the measures that Thailand has rushed to introduce right now will restore confidence quickly,” he said.
Mr Pongpanu explained that the government has also set up a fund to expedite compensation to the survivors and families of the victims.
“The total fund amount in B64mn, to pay B1mn for each death, cover medical expenses of up to B500,000 for each person, and B20,000 to each person for the mental harm done. Up To B20,000 per person will be paid for any extra travel expenses incurred,” he said.
Under the mandatory insurance for tourism businesses, “each person” will recive B1mn compensation, and the Marine Department under its regulations to pay a further B100,000 “per person”, he added.
Families of six bodies recovered had already received the compensation, Mr Pongpanu confirmed.
According to officials, the Phoenix disaster claimed 47 lives, with 42 people surviving the ordeal.
All 46 of the bodies recovered have been identified, officials reported this morning.
In accordance with relatives’ wishes, 20 of the bodies have been cremated at ceremonies in Phuket, and seven bodies have been taken “back to their home country” for funeral services there.
As of yesterday, officials reported that only one survivor remained in hospital care.