Thailand: 25 dead, more than one million affected by floods in southern Thailand

Channel NewsAsia 10 Jan 17;

BANGKOK: Large parts of southern Thailand remain under floodwaters after more than a week of heavy monsoon rain as the government scrambled more emergency aid to more than a million affected residents.

According to the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, the floods, described as the worst experienced by the region in almost 50 years, have so far claimed 25 lives while two people have gone missing.

"About 1.1 million residents from 369,680 families in 12 provinces of southern Thailand were affected by the flooding," said the department's chief, Chatchai Promlert, in his daily update on the disaster on Tuesday (Jan 10).

The 12 provinces of southern Thailand affected by the floods are Pattalung, Narathiwat, Songkhla, Pattani, Trang, Yala, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Chumpon, Ranong, Prachuab Kiri Khan and Krabi.

'LOST EVERYTHING'

In flood-hit areas of Surat Thani province, a tourist gateway to the party islands of Samui and Phangan, villagers said a week of rain had brought an unprecedented deluge.

"Every year it floods, but not like this," Chamnan Ingkaew, a village leader in Chaiya district told AFP.

"There are 100 houses in my village, but we all had to leave and everything inside was lost ... the water kept coming and coming, almost two metres high."

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Tuesday said residents should have heeded evacuation warnings issued ahead of the floods.

"Many people do not want to leave, they want to stay home," he said, adding that their reluctance was making the relief effort more pressing.

The widespread flooding has damaged five government installations, 218 roads and 59 bridges.

A heavy downpour in Prachuab Kiri Khan province on Monday night also caused the Phetkasem Highway, a major artery in southern Thailand, to be cut off when one of the bridges linking to it was swept away by swift currents.

The government has started building a temporary bridge to replace the damaged bridge, said the province's chief administration officer, Somporn Patchimphet.

He also said that the province's Bangsapan district hospital was flooded on Monday night, forcing the authorities to evacuate the patients to higher floors and to nearby hospitals.

The flooding has also shuttered the airport in Nakhon Si Thammarat and trains to the deep south.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) said the disaster will only have a minimal impact on the economy as the losses from the flooding were estimated to be not more than 15 billion baht (US$421 million).

The disaster will not have a big impact on the country's Gross Domestic Product, FTI chairman Chen Namchaisiri told local media. Southern Thailand is a major rubber producing region and its islands are a major attraction for foreign tourists.

- Agencies/mn/nc


More rain and pain expected as Thai flood death toll rises to 40
Channel NewsAsia 15 Jan 17;

BANGKOK: Thailand faces more hardship from unseasonable floods that have killed 40 people in its south, with more rain expected in the major rubber-producing and tourist region in coming days, a top disaster agency official said on Sunday (Jan 15).

Persistent heavy rain well into what should be the dry season has triggered floods across the south, cutting road and rail links, threatening crops and affecting about 1.6 million people, said Chatchai Promlert, head of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department.

"The worst isn't over. We're expecting more rain this week while clean-up efforts are underway in places where the waters have subsided," Chatchai told Reuters.

The Meteorological Department said on its website more rain was expected on Monday.

The rainy season in Thailand normally takes place from June to November. The floods, which began on Jan 1, have followed unseasonably heavy rain.

Thailand is one of the world's most important producers of natural rubber and the national rubber authority said on Thursday output in 2016-2017 would be about 10 percent lower because of the floods.

Global rubber prices have spiked on concern about the impact.

Flooding occurs in Thailand regularly during the rainy season but January is traditionally sunny and clear, and a high season for the tourist industry, including in southern seaside resorts.

The country saw its worst flooding in half a century in 2011, when heavy rain beginning in July that year over northern regions led to six months of inundations, including in the central plains, where industrial estates have replaced rice fields in many places.

The floods submerged a third of the country, killed more than 900 people and crippled industry.

The army played a major role in relief efforts in 2011 while the then civilian government was criticised for what many saw as lacklustre disaster efforts.

The army, which seized power in a 2014 coup, has again been playing a major role in helping with relief efforts.

The Federation of Thai Industries said last week the southern floods would have little impact on economic growth.

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Robert Birsel)

- Reuters

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