Portuguese man-of-wars invade Phuket, close beaches

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Phuket has banned holidaymakers from swimming at three beaches after an invasion of poisonous jellyfish-like creatures.

Kittiphat Tharapiban, head of Sirinath National Park told the Bangkok Post that national park officials spotted Portuguese man-of-wars along Naiyang, Naithon and Layan beaches in Phuket.

The creatures, also known as bluebottles, are commonly found on Australian beaches. It doesn’t pay to step on them in bare feet.

According to the Bangkok Post, Kittiphat said the creatures “are considered the world’s most venomous species”.

The national park found their presence could pose a danger to tourists swimming at the three beaches so has banned swimming and all water activities at the beaches.

The National Geographic website says the Portuguese man-of-war is actually a  siphonophore, “an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together”.

Its long, thin tentacles, covered in venom-filled nematocysts used to paralyse and kill fish, can extend 50 meters below the water’s surface.

“For humans, a man-of-war sting is excruciatingly painful, but rarely deadly,” National Geographic says. “But beware – even dead man-of-wars washed up on shore can deliver a sting.”

A flotilla of bluebottles washed ashore on Sydney beaches a year ago and stings are painful but common. More than 10,000 people report being stung by them in Australia each year, “with  up to 30,000 reports in peak years”, according to ABC News.

The best treatment for the sting, Sydney University researchers say, is hot water.

Written by Peter Needham