Contaminated food may have killed Canadian tourists at Phi Phi

Public Health officials were dispatched to Phi Phi Island yesterday to help local officials work out why two Canadian sisters died in their hotel last week.

Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri said officials from the Epidemiology and Occupational and Environmental Diseases Bureaux were assigned to survey environmental conditions for possible contamination in order to determine the cause of death, so local people and foreign countries would have fewer concerns.

The bodies of Audrey and Noemi Belanger, aged 20 and 26, from Quebec province, were found on Friday by hotel staff on Phi Phi Island in Krabi province.

Dr Pornthep Siriwanarangsan, head of the Disease Control Department, said the initial investigation in the room found a large quantity of vomit and faeces. There was evidence of bleeding and their nails had turned black, probably caused by internal bleeding.

"We planned to send the bodies for post mortem at Surat Thani Hospital because Krabi Hospital has no forensic doctor. However, so far, we have been unable to move them because their relatives and the Canadian Embassy representative who came to Krabi did not allow us to do so," the director said.

Meanwhile, Pol Col Wissawa Sanehha of Phi Phi police, said the initial investigation found that the sisters had visited a bar on the island the night before having a meal at a restaurant on the beach.

Dr Komkrit Phukrittayakami, director of Krabi Hospital, said that from the condition of the bodies, it was likely the deaths were caused by contaminated food, but an autopsy would be required to discover whether this was seafood, mushrooms or chemical substances.

Wiyada Srirangkul, director of the Tourism Authority Krabi office, said tourism in the province did not appear to have been affected by the incident because the cause of death was still not known.

However, if it were found that the young women died because of contaminated food, the image of the area would inevitably be affected.