BANGKOK • The Thai authorities yesterday warned of flash floods across the south as torrential rain lashed the region leaving at least eight people dead, delaying flights and disrupting holidays during the peak tourist season.
Nine provinces along Thailand's southern tail have been hit by unseasonable rain for nearly a week, with the resort islands of Samui and Phangan deluged, leaving thousands of tourists stranded or delayed.
Eight people have been killed and at least 120,000 households have been affected by the flooding across the south, the Interior Ministry said.
Waters have turned roads into rivers and upended rail tracks.
The authorities fear there may be worse to come.
The Thai Meteorological Department warned of possible "heavy rain and flash floods" in the region, with the downpour expected to continue for two more days.
A smattering of foreign tourists on Samui took advantage of the flooded streets, drawing bemused looks from locals as they bobbed along in inflatable tubes sipping beers.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visited the southernmost province of Narathiwat yesterday to distribute aid.
Thailand's wet season usually begins in May and ends in late November. Heavy rain and flooding are 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 were cancelled yesterday because the runway was flooded, the Department of Airports said.
"The floods began on Jan 1 and are due to the unseasonable heavy rain," said an official at the National Disaster Warning Centre .
Railway services on the main line linking Thailand to Malaysia have been suspended because the track is flooded.
Meanwhile, clear skies across the border in Malaysia's north- eastern states meant flood waters and river levels receded yesterday. Still, some 13,000 people in Kelantan remained stranded at relief centres though they are expected to return to their homes in the coming days. Sungai Golok, the river which lies on the border between Malaysia and Thailand, stayed above its danger level of 9m.
Residents in Terengganu state fared better; just under 1,300 people remain at relief centres, compared to 10,600 a day earlier. Those who made their way home began the tough task of assessing the damage and cleaning up.
They were grateful to see the flood waters subsiding but were wary of the rains returning.
"Last night, the flood waters rose up to my chest and today it receded. We will begin cleaning the mud, which we think is about two inches thick, from the house," said Mr Mohd Anuar Ali, 41, as he cleared debris from his house.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BERNAMA, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK