Floods cut overland routes to Thailand's south

Floods in southern Thailand have killed over 20 people and hit the region's rubber industry.
Foreigners wearing rain ponchos walk in the rain in a popular tourist area of Khaosan road in Bangkok, Thailand.
Foreigners wearing rain ponchos walk in the rain in a popular tourist area of Khaosan road in Bangkok, Thailand.PHOTO: EPA

SURAT THANI, Thailand (AFP, REUTERS) - Overland routes to Thailand's flood-hit south were severed on Tuesday (Jan 10) after two bridges collapsed following days of torrential rain that has killed at least 25 people, including a five-year-old girl.

The heaviest January rains for three decades have lashed the country's southern neck for more than a week, affecting 1.1 million people across eleven provinces.

The unseasonal downpours have also put a dampener on Thailand's peak tourist period, prompting cancellations on popular resort islands including Samui and Phangan.

On Tuesday morning the main road heading down Thailand's southern neck - Highway 4 - was closed in Prachuab Kiri Khan province, four hours south of Bangkok.

"We stopped all vehicles from passing after two bridges collapsed on Highway 4," a Highways Department spokesman told AFP.

The railway link to the south and Malaysia have also been stopped by the rising floodwaters, increasing demand on already stretched flights to and from the flood-ravaged region.

The death toll has crept up over recent days as floods have reached roof-top level in some areas.

A five-year-old girl in Prachuab province became the latest victim when a flash flood hit a van she was travelling in late Monday.

"Her family climbed to the roof of the van to avoid the water but she fell in with her mother," relief worker Rawiroj Thammee told AFP.

"The girl was swept away... villagers found her body 200 metres from the van this morning (Tuesday)."

January usually brings visitors flocking to the south's islands and pristine beaches as monsoon rains abate and temperatures ease.

But the region has been battered by what junta chief Prayut Chan-o-cha described as the heaviest January rainfall in 30 years.

Vast tracts of the south - which is also an agricultural hub for rubber, palm oil and fruit plantations - have been left under water while flash floods have caused deaths and widespread damage.

Television images have shown villagers wading through muddy water in remote flooded hamlets, with a few salvaged belongings held above their heads.

Soldiers have been deployed to provide relief packages and rescue stranded people in the worst-hit areas.

“It’s like a big pond,” said Nakhon Si Thammarat resident Pattama Narai.

Patients were evacuated by canoes as a hospital was swamped with waters in Prachuab province.

The rain is forecast to slacken over the next 24 hours.