THAILAND - Nearly a million residents living in flood-hit areas in the South have been left stranded with no access to land and air transport, even as the number of deaths increased to nine, with the grim prospect of heavy rains pounding many of the areas for the next few days.
A storm yesterday aggravated difficulties for the hardest-hit province of Nakhon Si Thammarat, damaging 250 homes in coastal areas and the Talum Phuk peninsula. The raging winds felled a number of power poles, causing blackouts in many areas.
Local residents of the peninsula complained about the total lack of assistance from authorities, and shortages of food and electricity. Fishermen are relying entirely on high-interest loans from illegal lenders to pay for their regular expenses while they are unable to go out fishing.
In Lan Saka district, a large number of people living at the foot of small hills have been evacuated following mudslides, with the possibility of more coming. A large pile of debris has covered farmlands and damaged them.
The situation in the whole region, including the other six hard-hit provinces - Surat Thani, Chumphon, Phang Nga, Ranong, Trang and Phatthalung - will likely return to normal next week if the heavy rains cease.
All train services down from Nakhon Si Thammarat have been suspended due to high flooding of the railway tracks. Villagers living in the foothills of nine provinces have been advised to watch out for mudslides, which have occurred in nine districts in four provinces. There are 1,628 locations facing the risk of mudslides in 14 southern provinces, with a total of 5,593 locations in 51 provinces across the country.
In tambon Pak Phoon in Muang district, desperate villagers seeking to be evacuated made a false appeal for help. When rescuers arrived at the scene, they rejected their request for evacuation citing priority for an incident in which a brick oven had collapsed. A villager then confessed to raising a false alarm to get the attention of rescuers.
Four Navy vessels, including an amphibious landing craft, are on their way to the South from the Sattahip Naval Base, with on-board helicopters hoping to pick up a large number of tourists stranded on many tourist islands. A total of 103 tourists stranded on tourist islands off Phang Nga coast on Andaman Sea side have been rescued by two local Navy vessels.
In Phi Poon district, two reservoirs are brimming and releasing water on an hourly basis to prevent cracks or a collapse. The Kathoon and Khlong Din Daeng cannot accommodate any more water, said district chief Trairat Chaiyarat.
In the latest fatality reported in Phatthalung, a woman drowned when her car plunged into two-metre roadside floodwaters, raising the number of dead to nine, according to unofficial news reports. The latest official update on the disaster yesterday reported seven deaths, with 979,665 people living in 310,406 affected households. The flood areas cover 63 districts in seven southern provinces.
Airports in Nakhon Si Thammarat have been closed because the runways and taxiways have been flooded while the one in Samui Island remains closed as of press time last night.
Ekkarat Sukpetch, a reporter at The Nation, said rain poured down day and night, forcing Bangkok Airways to cancel most of its flights to and from Samui Airport. "Floodwater is also rising to a point that electricity had to be cut off on Lamai Beach," she said.
She added that tap water was not available on the beach as electrical pumps stopped working when the electricity went off on Monday night.
"I've heard that someone was electrocuted. So, power has been turned off," Ekkarat said. Without any access to electricity and tap water on Lamai Beach, she moved to Chaweng Beach instead.
Ekkarat had gone to cover the Samui International Body Painting Competition, which took place during the weekend. She was scheduled to fly back to Bangkok on Monday but the weather conditions made it impossible. Ekkarat showed up again at Samui Airport at 4am yesterday, awaiting a Bangkok Airways flight. "But because there are just two flights, there are not enough seats to carry all the stranded passengers back," she said.
-The Nation/Asia News Network