After-effects of last week’s heavy rains in Phuket are apparently not yet ended. Saturday a two-hundred-metre stretch in tambon Rassada of the heavily trafficked Bypass Road — a main artery from Phuket International Airport to Patong and the island’s other principal tourism resorts — was proclaimed a danger zone owing to the risk of landslide. Sunday a new two-hundred-metre long, 80-centimetre wide crack appeared in an embankment, prompting the tambon authorities — who fear the recently completed section is about to collapse — to warn drivers away from the area.
The affected area, in Rassada Moo 5 below the hills known in Thai as Khao Nang Panturat, was formerly mined for tin ore and the land is now loose and unstable. Rains last week and again on Saturday have resulted in a slide threatening property and people.
An emergency meeting of senior provincial and tambon officials decided a retaining wall must be constructed to contain the slide — but no budget money was reported in the pipeline. Rain later in the day, however, caused the slide to move closer to the road — bringing with it rubber and other trees planted on what was formerly the hilltop — and precipitated a new slide in the road’s embankment.
Terrified staff at nearby Adisak Trading, seeing the land coming their way, fled to the other side of the road.
Staff at an emergency relief centre set up by tambon authorities to keep an eye on the slide and aid those affected by it, said the land is moving down more or less constantly.
Tambon Rassada municipal mayor Suratin Lienudom Saturday morning inspected the new slide on the embankment supporting the upper, north-bound lane, and separating it from the lower southbound lane: he immediately ordered that south-bound traffic be diverted left away from the slide, to reduce vibrations, and had staff in adjacent businesses evacuate their premises “until the situation stabilizes.”
The new slide lies about one kilometre from the first one. Suratin said the former had probably resulted from “constant water drainage eating away at the soil.” The provincial Highways Department has brought in heavy equipment to clear the road should the embankment slip onto the south-bound lane; police were stationed in the area to direct traffic. The north-bound section was narrowed to one lane along the stretch as a measure against traffic vibrations.
Suratin asked that heavy vehicles use another route “if possible”, adding that, with more rain, slides in many places along the route might appear. He said officials were “standing by 24 hours a day” to deal with the situation.