Issued at 12.00 Hrs. (GMT+7) on 18 July 2018
First, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) once again extends our sincere sympathies and condolences to all tourists and their families who have experienced injury or suffered losses in this tragic event.
TAT and all concerned agencies in the public and private sectors will continue to do what we can to provide support to the injured tourists and people who lost their loved ones. We would also like to take this opportunity to offer an overview of the emergency response and assistance effort extended over the last two weeks.
On 5 July, 2018, two tour boats and a jet ski capsized off Phuket. The Phoenix capsized and sank near Ko Hei (Coral Island) south of Phuket with 89 tourists; 42 were saved while 47 died. The Sereniga capsized and sank off Ko Maithon, southeast of Phuket with 35 tourists; all were saved. In addition, a jet ski with two drivers capsized near Ko Racha, south of Phuket; both were saved.
The Emergency Response
Immediately after the incident, officials, volunteers and locals in the area were fully mobilised in the search-and-rescue operation, with a 24/7 ‘Command and Rescue Centre of the Capsizing Incident’ opened at Chalong Pier. The 11-day operation saved 79 lives and ended on 15 July when the integrated search team successfully retrieved the 47th body from the site of the sunken Phoenix. (Last body retrieved, one-minute silence observed for 47 victims)
The search team members comprised officers and personnel from the Royal Thai Army, Royal Thai Navy, Royal Thai Air Force, Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command’s Maritime Enforcement Coordination Centre, Phuket Province and Thai Marine Police. There were joined by rescue workers from China’s Guangzhou Salvage and volunteers from Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Scotland and Thailand.
The 11-day, sea-air-land search operations involved more than 80 boat trips, 60 helicopter trips as well as thousands of military officers and personnel, rescue workers and volunteers.
The Assistance Effort
Immediately after the incident, all responsible agencies in the public and private sectors have made every effort to provide support for the affected tourists and people who lost their loved ones.
- Phuket International Airport opened a ‘Tourist Assistance Co-ordinating Centre’ at its International Terminal’s 1st Floor and 3rd Floor and the Domestic Terminal’s 1st Floor, in cooperation with Phuket Province, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, TAT Phuket Office, Phuket Immigration Office, Phuket Customs House, the Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China in Songkhla, Tourist Police, Thai Hotels Association (THA), Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), Phuket Tourist Association, Phuket Chinese-Speaking Tourist Club, Andaman Tourist Guide Association, and Phuket Professional Tourist Guide Association.
- A 24/7 Phuket Tourist Assistance Co-ordinating Centre was set up at Vachira Phuket Hospital to provide support to all affected tourists and their families, including coordinating with responsible public and private agencies on matters like taking the deceased’s body back home, legalising proof of relationship documents, and arranging funerals.
- Vachira Phuket Hospital also served as a centre for an identity verification process by an integrated team of forensic experts from the Provincial Police Division Region 8, the Office of Police Forensic Science, the Institute of Forensic Medicine, Phuket Provincial Police, Police Forensic Science Centre 8 and Vachira Phuket Hospital. The team also coordinated with Chinese consular officials on autopsies and the identity verification processes for all 47 victims.
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Royal Thai Embassy in Beijing and the Royal Thai Consulate-General in 10 Chinese cities provided urgent visas and waived visa fees as well as coordinated with the Phuket Immigration Office for urgent visa-on-arrival processing for family members of the victims. The urgent services were provided for 38 visa applicants between 6-9 July.
- Phuket Immigration Office opened a ‘fast-track’ lane for family members of the victims and coordinated their arrivals with the Airport’s ‘Tourist Assistance Co-ordinating Centre’ to ensure seamless local support.
- ATTA provided local transfers with 20 vans and 20 Chinese-speaking interpreters to support the arrival of family members of the victims with local communication and arrangement.
- The THA Southern Chapter, Patong Hotel Association and Phuket Tourist Association provided accommodation, offering 500 room nights from 50 hotels, and local transfers for the affected tourists and families of the victims during 7-15 July.
- The Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China in Songkhla opened a Hotline Number 15587003732 to provide urgent phone support for family members of the victims.
- Phuket City Development , Ltd. provided local transfer services between Phuket International Airport and the hospitals.
- A team of psychiatrists from Suan Saranrom Hospital in Surat Thani travelled to Phuket to provide care to the affected tourists and family members of the victims.
- Thailand’s major telephone service providers, AIS, TrueMove and DTAC provided international and domestic calls for affected tourists and families of the victims at Vachira Phuket Hospital, Phuket Province Hospital and Chalong Bay.
- A ‘centre for funeral arrangements’ was set up at Wat Kosit Wihan in Mueang district, Phuket, by the Phuket Provincial Cultural Office with cooperation from the Department of Religious Affairs, the National Office of Buddhism, Kusoldharm Phuket Foundation, Tourist Assistance Centre Phuket, and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Centre has arranged funerals for 40 victims and sent seven other bodies back home.
- The Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ Foreign Tourists Assistance Fund and respective insurance firms have so far paid 61,928,000 Baht in total compensation for injured tourists and families of those who lost their lives.
- A 24/7 ‘Command and Rescue Centre of the Capsizing Incident’ was opened at the Phuket Provincial Hall from 13 July to provide a one-stop service to all the affected tourists and family members of the victims at all fronts.
Thai authorities have announced an action plan to improve safety standards and confidence in Thailand as a safe tourist destination at a joint press conference held on 17 July in Phuket (to read more, click: Action plan announced to improve marine tourism safety)