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Phuket Opinion: Blame it on the rain

PHUKET: “Work without engineering, Thai style,” was just one of the comments posted, in English, by a Thai national under an image of one of the many landslides across Phuket roads this past week – highlighting the fact that officials are not fooling anyone with their claims regarding safety when to comes to road building.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 23 October 2022, 10:00AM

Traffic continues down Patong Hill even after the landslide on Wednesday (Oct 19). Photo: PR Phuket

Traffic continues down Patong Hill even after the landslide on Wednesday (Oct 19). Photo: PR Phuket

That comment could not be more appropriate when it comes to the collapse of the road over Patong Hill on Wednesday (Oct 19). Amazingly, no people were injured in the landslide.

Officials have repeatedly blamed the rain for the slew of landslides across Phuket. The Thai Meteorological Department (TMD) has not yet confirmed the rainfall this month to be record breaking, but it must be close.

By Oct 16 Phuket had already experienced 238mm of rainfall in October. The 30-year average for October stood at 330mm, the TMD reported at the time. Then came the rains last Sunday, with continuing very heavy downpours through Tuesday. As of yesterday (Oct 22), The TMD reported that Phuket had experienced 530mm of rainfall so far this month.

Yet that is not the issue, and officials know it. Good quality infrastructure construction can be done. Even maintenance can be done. All throughout the floods over the past week there has not been one report of an underpass flooding. That can be credited to construction and maintenance. Not by chance but by maintenance schedule alone the water pumps in the Darasamut Underpass underwent replacement just last month. That followed an inspection in August.

Yet for the Patong Hill road collapse the photos released by officials themselves showed very little compacting under the road surface, and appalling drainage on the downhill side of the road – as if they just forgot where the water would go and what was actually holding up the road. The fact that the road had not collapsed earlier, even during the heyday of Phuket tourism through 2018-2019, is a miracle. That is the level of engineering that has been allowed.

And now, after the key road that feed tourists to Patong has collapsed, Phuket Highways Office Chief Yuttana Pitak says that all repairs at landslide sites “must adhere to engineering principles”. It is a little late for that.

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Now all people wanting to get to – or from – Patong by road must travel over Kata Hill, a road still waiting to undergo repairs after the earth under the supports for the outer lane were washed away two years ago, or they must travel through Kamala, which also suffered landslides spilling across its main road this past week.

All the blathering about restoring tourists’ confidence in travelling to Phuket will now be put to the test. This time “Trust us” will not be good enough.

Not only do officials have to convince tourists themselves, they can bank on short memories for the problem to disappear over time for that, but they will also have to convince tour agents, whose name will be held synonymous in source markets around the globe with any dangerous incidents that may occur in the future.

Agents selling flights and tours to Phuket now have to pitch their tours on the probability that their tourist customers will not plunge down a steep hillside while they are on holiday here, and the tour agents will have to gamble on not having their brand name associated with any fatalities resulting from dangerous road building. Tourists can go to any developing country to get that.

While quality road building can be performed by a select few companies in the country, this time international experts will need to be brought in to professionally sign off on any repairs done – or carry out the repairs themselves – in order to restore any confidence in people even thinking of using the Patong Hill road once it reopens.

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Pascale | 24 October 2022 - 18:09:10

@Old guy   In order to make  the search for you as easy as possible  type in the following : Pictures washed away streets/ followed by a country of your choice. Enough pictures for you for sure to see the reality. And you can find many articles about the desolate status about roads in Italy,Germany and other countries in Europe too. Enjoy the search.

Pascale | 24 October 2022 - 17:50:12

@Old Guy  Rare ? Lol !Australia for Example: 24.1   Flooding wash away roads in SA.   23.2  Road in Sydney washed away by floods.  11.3 Roads ripped apart by NSW and Queensland floods.  An article on the Guardian on those floods and the need to build better quality roads. Not really rare in 2 month time only. Could go on with Europe  or NA too.

Old guy | 24 October 2022 - 17:05:48

@Pascale: Europe. North America. Australia. Japan.
Enough for you? While landslides do happen, they are rare and usually not on construction sites. 

Old guy | 24 October 2022 - 17:00:30

@JohnC. C'mon John, you know "ancients" was "accidents".
Thailand has all these problems because the don't have people who understand engineering. And, that's not going to change in the next few weeks. 

Old guy | 24 October 2022 - 16:53:06

Travel Agent: "Come visit Phuket Town Thailand. Enjoy a scenic Day trip to famous Patong and the 1/2km walk up a dangerous road, rain or shine. And, after a night on Bangla Road, enjoy the ride/walk back to your hotel. A holiday you will long remember!"

Pascale | 24 October 2022 - 15:34:32

@JohnC    Name me any country of your choice and I will proof you wrong about saying that :" In countries all over the world ,no matter how much rainfall they get,roads are built that withstands..."   Have you been in any other place in the last 30 years  than Thailand ? 

Fascinated | 24 October 2022 - 13:28:40

No need for a tunnel now- just dig down to the level of the landslip. It's called a 'cutting' and the sides can be covered in shot=crete. Unfortunately not as much money in that as the 'golden tunnel but the earth removed could go for landfill elsewhere.

Johan Engberg | 24 October 2022 - 09:53:03

So far in Rawai, over 700 mm in October!

JohnC | 24 October 2022 - 08:44:40

@Concernd. What have 'ancients' got to do with Patong hill? The tunnel will be the biggest opportunity for huge kickbacks and bribes in the last 20 years. That is the main reason they are pushing for it. I can already hear them rubbing their hands together in anticipation.
PS: My opinion since I arrived on Phuket almost 30 years ago.

JohnC | 24 October 2022 - 08:38:38

Good article with a lot of truth stated. In countries all over the world, no matter how much rainfall they get, roads are built that withstand landslides and washouts because they were built properly in the first place. I learnt from Thai friends that there is no money to be made from well built roads, most of the kickbacks come from tendering & repairing what was not done correctly. TIT!!!

Concernd | 24 October 2022 - 06:17:40

For a Tunnel 
Secure way to Patong 
How many more ancients have to happen over the hill to Patong which most likely would not happen if there would be a tunnel?
PS my opinion since I arrived in Phuket about 20 years ago.

another overseas scot | 23 October 2022 - 12:07:33

Tunnel thru the hills to either Kamala or Patong from Sarasin to Phuket highway. Much better use of funds than the proposed light train boondoggle.

Prab | 23 October 2022 - 11:51:56

1st day of sun today, so 5 to go and they should have a quick they mention few days ago...let see.. but nice article right on spot..


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