Thailand: Heavy flooding kills 14, inundates tourist isles

Reuters 6 Dec 16;

Floods in Thailand have killed 14 people and badly affected southern holiday islands as the country heads into the December-January high season for tourism, authorities said on Tuesday.

A low pressure system has brought heavy rain to parts of the south including the islands of Samui and Pha Ngan in the Gulf of Thailand, and floods have also severed the rail link to the south and Malaysia beyond.

Tourism has been a rare bright spot for an economy that has struggled to gain traction since the army seized power in a bloodless coup in 2014 to end months of political unrest.

The death on Oct. 13 of long-reigning King Bhumibol Adulyadej plunged the country into grief and also raised questions about tourist arrivals though authorities say the country is open for business despite a year of mourning.

"There has been heavier rain than usual which has caused drainage problems," Nongyao Jirundom of the state Tourism Authority of Thailand on Samui island told Reuters.

"Swimming is out of the question."

National Disaster Warning Centre said 14 Thai people had been killed in various accidents caused by the weather in different parts of the south.

Southbound trains have been halted in the town of Thung Song in Nakhon Si Thammarat province because of flooding.

Nakhon Si Thammarat has had 447 mm of precipitation in the past 7 days, 380 mm more than the average for this time of year, according to Thomson Reuters data.

December marks the beginning of the dry season when tourists descend on palm fringed beaches to celebrate the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Despite the mourning period for the late king, authorities are bullish about the outlook for tourism, which accounts for 10 percent of gross domestic product.

The tourism ministry expects a record 32.4 million arrivals this year.

Widespread floods in 2011 killed more than 900 people and caused major disruption to industry, cutting economic growth that year to just 0.1 percent.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Koh Samui, Koh Phangan declared disaster areas
Bangkok Post 5 Dec 16;

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Koh Samui and Koh Phangan have been placed on the disaster areas list as heavy rain continues to pound the two resort islands and other areas in Surat Thani and other southern provinces.

Surat Thani governor Auychai Inthanak said on Monday that the two islands were among the 16 districts declared disaster-hit areas of all 19 districts in the province as they were damaged by floods and heavy rain.

Surat Thani is one of the worst-hit provinces in the region, which has been blanketed by downpours since last week.

The Meteorological Department on Monday warned of severe weather in the region.
Flooding already forced the State Railway of Thailand to cancel train services southward of Thung Song junction station in Thung Song district, Nakhon Si Thammarat province, at least until Tuesday.

Flooding on Koh Samui eased on Sunday but downpours overnight left roads inundated again on Monday.
The situation looks worse due to overflowing Phru Chawaeng, the island's main reservoir, into low-lying communities on the island.

The weather office predicted rain in most areas on Koh Samui until Wednesday.

On Koh Phangan, a road between Ban Tai and Tong Nai Pan, a main route for tourists on the island, was impassable after fallen mountain rocks brought down four electricity poles, causing blackouts in some areas.

Workers from the Provincial Electricity Authority later cleared the blockade and were trying to repair the damaged poles.

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