Thailand

Heavy rain forecast sparks new flood warning in Thailand

A flooded Buddhist temple in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, in southern Thailand, on Sunday. Since the start of the year, heavy rain has caused flooding across several provinces in the southern provinces, leaving at least 21 people dead and affecting
A flooded Buddhist temple in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, in southern Thailand, on Sunday. Since the start of the year, heavy rain has caused flooding across several provinces in the southern provinces, leaving at least 21 people dead and affecting close to a million others.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Officials warn of severe weather conditions and 3m-tall waves as deluge is set to hit two provinces

Thailand is bracing itself for more flash floods today, with torrential rain forecast to hit two provinces, as the authorities struggled to reinstate road and rail networks in the south which has been inundated by water over the past week.

Unusually heavy rainfall across 12 provinces, which caused widespread flooding in southern Thailand, killing at least 21 people so far, continued clogging key sections of two major highways linking Bangkok to the region yesterday.

Train services heading south from the capital have been ending in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, by the Gulf of Thailand, instead of proceeding to the border with Malaysia. The province's airport will also be closed until tomorrow.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha attributed the severe flooding to "the worst rainfall in more than 30 years", saying the country must prepare to handle natural disasters which are increasingly likely because of climate change.

Close to a million people have been affected by the floods so far.

Soldiers have been deployed to reach victims as various organisations raise funds for relief efforts.

"This is the normal rainy season in this part of the country," Mr Chatchai Promlert, director-general of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, told The Straits Times.

"What caused the problem was that the rain came hard and fast in a very short space of time. This is the third wave of heavy rain since December."

According to the latest update from Thailand's meteorological department, heavy to torrential rain is expected in Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces by the Gulf of Thailand. People should beware of "severe weather conditions" as well as monsoon waves up to 3m high, which could surge inshore, it said.

"All ships should proceed with caution and small boats keep ashore" until today, the department said in a statement yesterday evening.

Thai media reports showed villagers in Nakhon Si Thammarat trying to get on with their lives as the chest-high water levels surged dangerously close to the living areas in their houses on stilts.

Some moved their livestock to elevated pens, relying on boats to deliver fodder.

Households in the rubber and oil palm-growing region, now relying on donations of food and bottled water, fretted about the impact of the inundation on their cash crops.

One rubber expert expects the floods to push prices up this year. "I've had orders from China but we aren't even sure if we can meet these orders because of the havoc the floods have caused," Mr Uthai Sonlucksub, the president of the Natural Rubber Council of Thailand, was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying. "If they buy, it'll be at higher-than-expected prices."

The consolation is that the waters are also expected to recede swiftly.

"With the steep and mountainous terrain, tide flows fast and causes severe damage in the area it flows through," Mr Chatchai told The Straits Times.

"But this kind of flood won't last long in each area."

While the authorities have closed the popular Hat Noppharat Thara - Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park to tourists for safety reasons, several other marine national parks in the Andaman Sea remain open.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said yesterday that the government would implement a recovery plan once the waters recede.  

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2017, with the headline 'Heavy rain forecast sparks new flood warning'. Print Edition | Subscribe