Tropical rain, wind and surging seawater are moving against coastal villages and world-famous tourist resorts on southern Thailand’s east coast on Friday, knocking down trees and utility poles and flooding roads.
Airlines and boat operators suspended operations for safety reasons and tourists were forced to change travel plans.
Beaches were closed, but even with the bad weather approaching, tourists on the popular island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand continued to visit bars and restaurants catering to them.
That was good fortune for the tourism industry, whose safety problems were highlighted last July when 47 Chinese tourists drowned after their boat sank in rough seas near the popular resort of Phuket.
Ahead of this week’s storm, more than 6,100 people in four provinces were evacuated, according to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.
The Meteorological Department said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 kilometres (40 miles) per hour at late afternoon, down from 75 kph (47 mph) when it hit land shortly after noon.
It continued to warn of strong winds and waves 3-5 metres (10 to 16 feet) high in the Gulf of Thailand and 2-3 metres (6 to 10 feet) in the Andaman Sea. It advised all ships to stay ashore through Saturday and warned of possible storm surges on the Gulf coast.
People set up a barricade as tropical storm Pabuk approaches, in Tongsai Beach, Ko Samui
People set up a barricade as tropical storm Pabuk approaches, in Tongsai Beach, Ko Samui Credit: Reuters
“We can expect heavy rain and downpours, flooding and flash floods in the area throughout the night,” department Director-General Phuwieng Prakhammintara said.
Evacuation efforts were especially intense in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, about 800 kilometers (480 miles) south of Bangkok, where authorities sent trucks through flooded streets with downed power lines, urging people in danger zones to leave.
“You cannot stay here. It’s too dangerous,” they repeated from truck-mounted loudspeakers.
Koh Samui appeared to have been spared much of the brunt of the storm.
Rain there stopped by Friday evening, said Joe Kieta, and American visitor, “so it seems like the worst is past us.”