Thailand: 6 dead in southern Thai floods

Channel NewsAsia 6 Jan 17;

BANGKOK: Torrential rain and flooding across southern Thailand have killed at least six people, delayed flights and disrupted holidays during peak tourist season, officials said Friday (Jan 6).

Nine provinces in Thailand's south have been beset by monsoon rains for nearly a week, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Six people have been killed and at least 120,000 households have been affected, it added.

The deluge has turned roads into rivers, upended stretches of rail track and delayed flights, including on the island of Samui - a popular tourist destination.

Photos circulated on social media showed cars nearly submerged in muddy waters, with some foreign tourists bobbing along in inflatable tubes to the amusement of onlookers.

Tuula Fitzpatrick, the owner of a guesthouse on Samui, said the flooding was the worst to hit the island in over a decade.

"In our guesthouse there were lots of people whose flights were cancelled," she told AFP.

"I've been living here for 12 years and I've never seen it so bad... It was scary. Some of my staff couldn't come to work."

Rail services have also been disrupted on the mainland, with trains unable to pass through the flooded region, authorities said Friday.

"The flood waters have hit the tracks and in some places the track was washed away," said Thanongsak Kongprasert, deputy governor of the State Railway of Thailand.

Military government chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha is scheduled to visit the southernmost province of Narathiwat on Friday to meet with flood victims and officials.

The region borders northern Malaysia, where thousands of people have been stranded in relief centres by heavy rains.


- AFP


Thai PM visits flood-battered south: 6 dead, transport disrupted
Channel NewsAsia 6 Jan 17;

BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited flooded parts of the south of the country on Friday where unseasonable downpours have killed six people, cut road and rail links and forced an airport to close.

Thailand's wet season usually ends in late November and heavy rain and flooding is rare in January, which is high season for beach resorts in the south.

Twenty-six flights to and from the main airport in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat airport were cancelled on Friday because the runway was flooded, the Department of Airports said.

"The floods began on January 1 and are due to the unseasonable heavy rain," said an officer at the National Disaster Warning Center who declined to be identified as she is not authorised to speak to the media.

Six people had been killed in accidents caused by the flooding, she said.

Railway services on the main line linking Thailand to Malaysia have been suspended because the track is flooded.

Southern Thailand is a major rubber-producing region and the wet weather was having a significant impact on production, said Uthai Sonlucksub, president of the Natural Rubber Council of Thailand.

"Farmers began tapping in December because they had to wait for the rainy season to end but now they have to contend with the floods," Uthai told Reuters.

Flooding in Thailand usually occurs during the May-November rainy season.

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, Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Robert Birsel)

- Reuters


18 dead as torrential rain submerges Thai south
Channel NewsAsia 7 Jan 17;

BANGKOK: Heavy rains continued to hammer Thailand's flood-ravaged south on Saturday (Jan 7), bringing the death toll up to 18 and leaving thousands of villages partially submerged, authorities said.

The flooding, which was roof-high in some areas, has affected nearly one million people in ten southern provinces since it started a week ago, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

At least 18 people have died and one is missing, it added, with the rains turning roads into rivers, inundating farmland and damaging more than 1,500 schools in the region.

The downpour is expected to persist for at least two more days, according to Thailand's Meteorological Department, which warned of flash floods.

"The situation is very bad today and tomorrow. It's still raining heavily," said Junjuda Pornsri, a meterological official.

Military bases across the region have been mobilised to help evacuate flood victims, provide temporary shelters and distribute emergency aid, the government said Saturday.

In hard-hit Nakhon Si Thammarat province, two army helicopters were deployed to airlift food to families trapped inside their homes in Cha-uat district.

Bapha Suthiphanya, a 60-year-old who has spent the past three nights in a makeshift government shelter in the district, said she was forced to evacuate her home after the waters rose above her head.

"I was so shocked and scared. I've never seen water like this and I also can not swim," she told AFP.

PEAK TOURIST SEASON

The monsoon rains are unusually heavy for this time of year in Thailand, which normally sees a three-month stretch of relatively dry and cool weather starting in November.

It is high season for tourists who flock to the kingdom's island resorts, powering a crucial sector of the economy.

But the deluge has already disrupted beach holidays in several traveller hotspots, including the popular islands of Samui and Phangan.

Hundreds of tourists have had their flights delayed, while train and bus services on the mainland have also been suspended.

Yet some travellers are refusing to let the storm stop the fun, with photos doing the rounds on social media of tourists coasting through flooded streets on pool floats, sipping drinks.

"Some tourists are enjoying the flooding, they're taking pictures and going swimming," said Nongyao Jirundorn, a tourism official on Samui island.

Neighbouring Malaysia was also hit by severe flooding earlier this week, with thousands stranded in relief centres in two northeastern states.

But by Saturday, the number of evacuees in Kelantan and Terengganu had dropped to about 13,500, from almost 23,000 Wednesday, as weather conditions improved and authorities forecast less rainfall over the weekend.

Prime Minister Najib Razak visited Kelantan on Saturday and met with people seeking shelter at a relief centre.

- AFP/nc


Rain brings fresh misery to flood-hit Thai south
Channel NewsAsia 10 Jan 17;

BANGKOK: Swathes of southern Thailand remained submerged on Monday as fresh rain deepened misery in the flood-stricken zone, prompting a scramble to pump water from the worst-hit areas.

Twenty-one people have been killed and nearly one million people affected by floods after days of unexpected rain across the country's southern neck, disaster relief officials said.

Downpours and flash floods have also disrupted holidays on tourist islands including Samui and Phangan, disappointing tens of thousands of visitors hunting Thailand's peak season sun.

Despite the end of the monsoon season weeks ago, there were no immediate signs of respite for the flood-battered region.

The Thai Meteorological Department warned of continuing "heavy rains which may cause flash floods" across 10 southern provinces, while the army intensified relief efforts.

Thailand's junta has deployed boats with special pumping equipment to Nakhon Si Thammarat province, which has seen floods reach rooftops in some areas, causing deaths and extensive damage to property.

"We are sorry for the families who have lost their loved ones," Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters. "The government and army will help as much as we can."

Television images showed villagers wading through muddy water in remote flooded hamlets.

In areas where the water had receded, locals slopped out mud from their homes and surveyed broken roads, bridges and ruined farmland.

Thailand's south is heavily reliant on tourism and agriculture, including rubber, fruit and palm oil plantations, and the floods will likely have a significant economic impact.

Across the border in Malaysia, floods eased significantly, with only about 1,000 residents seeking shelter at relief centres in the states of Kelantan and Terengganu late Sunday.

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- AFP/de

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