PHUKET: Local officials remain on high alert after five people, including four foreign tourists, drowned near beaches on this resort island over the past week.
Muang Phuket District Chief Pairoj Srilamoon said on Friday the five drowning cases were reported from July 28 to Aug 3. Since the beginning of this year, 12 people have drowned in rough seas there.
The recent five drownings include a Senegalese tourist at Freedom beach, two Indians at Karon beach, and one Thai and a Russian tourist at Surin beach. The latter's body was found on Thursday.
Mr Pairoj said the Russian tourist was identified as Alexander Iunemen, 41. He travelled to Phuket with relatives and stayed in a hotel near Surin beach.
He said red flags have been erected along Surin beach to warn people that swimming is not allowed due to the strong waves and winds during the monsoon season. But some visitors violated the rules.
Iunemen's body was found on Thursday evening. A lifeguard performed CPR before taking him to Thalang Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
With the increase in drownings on the island, governor Narong Woonciew ordered local authorities and lifeguards to keep a closer eye on tourist safety.
He ordered that clear warning signs be put up highlighting the rough seas and forbidding people from swimming in certain areas. Police must always patrol to safeguard tourists, he said.
Deputy governor Anuphap Rodkwan Yodrabam held a meeting on Friday with the public and private sectors to discuss safety measures.
Mr Anuphap said he ordered local administrative offices to check the number of lifeguards on each beach and vowed to hire more if needed.
Local authorities must also check if the lifeguards require more training and have sufficient rescue equipment, he said.
He said local authorities will join hands with the private sector to campaign for tourist safety while more safety information will be promoted. "Some drowning cases were caused by rule violations. That said, we have held constant discussions in a bid to prevent tourists from drowning since May," said Mr Anuphap.