Don't let Phuket drown
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Don't let Phuket drown

Heavy floods that lashed the southern province of Phuket last week, affecting more than 1,400 residents, attest to the need for a long-term disaster control plan in this world-class tourist destination.

Kathu and Thalang bore the brunt of the flooding on June 29-30, with many people evacuated to a makeshift shelter at a local temple.

The rains also disrupted air travel with more than a handful of inbound flights diverted to other airports in the country. The water has since receded but disaster relief workers are struggling to manage the damage as mudslides swept through people's homes and public roads.

Aside from the 2004 tsunami, there have been three major flooding incidents since 1997 -- in 1999, 2007 and 2023. The monsoon season normally runs from September to October but it has started early this year.

And the daily precipitation of more than 330 millimetres on several days last week may have swept local authorities off their feet.

The heavy rain and at times non-stop downpours saw most of the province underwater as its collective drainage system failed.

Rapid urbanisation without a suitable development plan has left Phuket vulnerable to natural disasters.

Critics have raised concerns about the extensive growth in the real estate sector, with some housing projects trespassing on areas where floodwater is set to be retained.

Moreover, roads that block waterways as well as clogged canals have aggravated the level of inundation.

Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai has said some roads that obstruct water need to be fixed so that floodwater will flow to the sea in a relatively short time. He must see to it that these words are translated into action.

Last October, Phuket town, a prime economic centre, found itself submerged on two occasions. Some may blame this on tropical storms, but the frequency of such disasters suggests a lack of infrastructure for handling inundation.

It should be noted that Phuket's infrastructure can only accommodate a population of 600,000 people.

The province currently has a registered population of 400,000, with another 200,000 who are not officially registered, according to government estimates. Meanwhile, pandemics aside, it welcomes 10 million visitors a year.

The government has been pouring more money into building roads and upgrading the island's airport. It even plans to build an electric train system in Phuket.

Yet Phuket city's flood-draining infrastructure -- which has been used for decades without any substantial improvements -- has not kept pace with the rate of urbanisation.

Phuket municipality still relies on 60-centimetre flood-drainage pipes while Bangkok has over the past decade enlarged the size of it subterranean drainage pipes to 1.5 metres --or even 4.6m in parts of the capital especially prone to flooding.

Phuket's town planners should take another look and ensure the infrastructure is in place to make sure this corresponds to the current risks, with no violations tolerated.

The Meteorological Department is expecting more rain in Phuket in the coming days.

Every local agency must be on alert to minimise the impact, ensuring there are enough water pumps and taking a proactive approach regarding early warnings and evacuations.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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