Governor Narong visited the site today, while a survey team from Kathu Municipality and the Phuket Highways Office took soil samples to analyse the strength of the soil layer.
The team gathered samples from four locations on the road by drilling holes about two metres deep. They also took soil samples from the embankment. Test results are expected in two to three days.
“If it is safe, the route will be used as appropriate,” said one government report of the inspection, without attributing the quote to any particular official.
The inspection today was “to assess the safety risks in opening routes for people and tourists to travel back and forth [over the hill],” the report said.
“The most important thing from the disaster that is happening now [floods and landslides] is that the safety of the people and tourists who use the route must be taken into account. Therefore, the route must be temporarily closed for everyone’s safety,” Governor Narong said.
The road over Patong Hill, technically Phra Barami Rd (Route 4029), was closed to all traffic after the landslide on Wednesday (Oct 19).
People travelling to or from Patong must take the route either via Chalong-Kata-Karon or via Kamala. Officials have asked people to be patient and to allow extra time for completing their journey to or from Patong. So far long traffic delays along the routes have been usual.
For people who were dependant on buses, song taew or other forms of “public transport” (all form of ‘public transport’ over the hill was operated by private entities), kathu Municipality in coordination with Patong Municipality is providing a free shuttle service.
The shuttle service involves vans stopping 500 metres before the landslide site and passengers walking through the danger zone to where another van is waiting on the other side.
Governor Narong’s call for safety today followed Yuttana Pitak, Director of the Phuket Highways Office, telling the press and Phuket Vice Governor Amnuay Pinsuwan that repairs to all landslide sites in Phuket will be conducted “according to engineering principles”.
His claim came at a meeting led by Vice Governor Amnuay, and joined by Songyosin Chonpatathip, Director of Highway Department Region 17 Office.
Also present at the meeting were Kathu District Chief Siwat Rawangkul and Kamala Tambon Administrative Organization (OrBorTor) Chief Jutha Dumlak.
According to a government report of the meeting, Mr Yuttana said, “Once the area is cleared… people will be able to use the route immediately.”
Mr Yuttana also explained that for “long-term solutions” experts would be taking soil samples at the sites to help determine what action is to be taken to prevent future landslides at the same sites.
“This requires a budget and time to operate. The Department of Highways has sent experts to analyse and inspect the sites, including geologists to survey and analyse rock types at the hll [Patong Hill] to solve the problem,” he added.
“Phuket Provincial Office has mobilised a team to urgently fix the landslide problem in order to restore the traffic flow so that the vehicles can run normally as quickly as possible,” he added.
“While solving long-term problems, we must assess the condition of the area and use the appropriate protocols to be correct according to engineering principles,” he added.
That said, according to the government report, Mr Yuttana also reportedly said that the Patong Hill site was closed off to all traffic, “including not allowing people to walk through, it is strictly prohibited for the safety of life and property of the people” ‒ in plain contradiction to the free shuttle service launched yesterday.
Of note, while claiming that any repairs to landslide sites will be conducted “according to engineering principles”, no mention was made of the engineering principles already approved that allowed the landslides to occur in the first place.