NAKHON SI THAMMARAT (Thailand) • Torrential rain hammered Thailand's flood-ravaged south yesterday, bringing the death toll to 18 from heavy rainfall that has left thousands of villages partially submerged, the authorities said.
The flooding, which was roof- high in some areas, has affected more than 700,000 people since it started a week ago, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. At least one person is missing, it said.
The floods have turned roads into rivers, inundating farmland and damaging more than 1,500 schools in the region.
The downpour was 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 meterological official Junjuda Pornsri.
Military bases across the region have been mobilised to help evacuate flood victims, provide temporary shelters and distribute emergency aid, the government said.
The navy yesterday sent its biggest landing platform dock ship, HTMS Ang Thong, to the heavily flooded Nakhon Si Thammarat province, the Bangkok Post reported.
The vessel also had helicopters that would join army choppers in delivering aid to isolated flood victims. It would also function as a floating command for southern flood relief and provide medical treatment and food.
Dr Sopon Mekthon, Permanent Secretary of the Public Health Ministry, said 10 medical emergency response teams were dispatched to help flood victims in difficult-to-access areas, while 200,000 sets of medical supplies were sent to nine provinces where 102 hospitals and health stations were affected, although most could still provide some services, The Nation reported.
Ms Bapha Suthiphanya, 60, who has spent three nights in a makeshift government shelter in Cha-uat district in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 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 cannot swim," she told Agence France-Presse.
The deluge has already disrupted beach holidays in several traveller hot spots, 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.
The monsoon rains are unusually heavy for this time of year in Thailand, which normally has a three- month stretch of relatively dry and cool weather starting in November.
Nakhon Si Thammarat received a record-breaking 600mm of rain in 24 hours last Thursday in Pak Phanang district, while the airport area had nearly 400mm, The Nation quoted Meteorological Department chief Wanchai Sakudomchai as saying.