“Surin Beach Lifeguard Captain Sayan Bureerak spotted four swimmers in trouble in a flash rip. This zone was clearly marked with red flags, and lifeguards had been patrolling hourly to remind beach visitors not to swim there,” an eyewitness told The Phuket News today (Aug 24).
“Four female visitors from France did not heed the red flags, and tried to go swimming,” the eyewitness added.
“Surin lifeguards immediately responded. Two of the victims had not gone out too far, and lifeguards were able to direct them back to the safe return area.
“However, two others were unable to return on their own and had to be towed in by lifeguards using rescue tubes.”
The four tourists received assistance on the beach, and were able to walk away after some time to rest and recover from the incident, reported the eyewitness.
He also commented that lifeguards are struggling to keep up at dangerous times during the southwest monsoon season, due to staffing and budgets for Phuket’s lifeguards having been cut over the past two years.
The “flash rip” is a quick-striking and unusually powerful outgoing current. First described in 2010 by local surfer S. A. Martin, “The flash rip is the Phuket cocktail, a deadly mixture of short-period and long-period wave activity unique to the region. This translates to what we see at our Phuket beaches: one minute the swimmer/tourist is standing in waist-deep water, marvelling in the moment at the beauty of Phuket; the next minute they are swept off their feet and carried out to sea.”
On Monday (Aug 21), Phuket Lifeguard Service President Prathaiyut Chuayuan urged swimmers to obey the red “No Swimming” flags at beaches along Phuket’s west coast.
That warning followed lifeguards closing off a section of Nai Thon Beach on Phuket’s northwest coast due to dangerous surf there.
“Where the flags are placed differs from time to time and day to day. Sometimes the flags will be moved around depending on the waves,” Mr Prathaiyut explained.
Mr Prathaiyut also pointed out that many sections of beaches remain safe to swim and have lifeguards on duty.
“Remember to swim between the red-and-yellow flags only,” he urged. (See story here.)
Meanwhile, a Chinese family on holiday in Phuket returned to Nai Thon Beach to thank lifeguards for rescuing the father and two children caught in dangerous surf there on Saturday.
The father, “Mr Doojun”, was revived on shore as his wife and children looked on. (See story here.)