Floods, blackouts after Thai storm, but tourist islands spared

Motorcyclists ride along a flooded street as tropical storm
Pabuk descends upon Koh Tao Island, Thailand, Saturday in
this still image taken from a video obtained from social
media. Amanda Figlarska via Reuters

Floods and blackouts caused by Tropical Storm Pabuk left nearly
30,000 people in evacuation shelters across southern Thailand
Saturday, as relieved tourists stranded on islands further
north were spared the worst and began to plot routes home.

Pabuk, a once in three-decade weather system, packed winds of
up to 75 kilometers an hour and brought heavy rains and storm
surges as it lashed the entire south of the kingdom on Friday,
downing power cables and causing widespread flooding.

A fisherman died in southern Pattani province early Friday
after high waves smashed into his boat and another crew member
was reported missing, while a 35-year-old man in Nakhon Si
Thammarat died when a tree toppled onto his house.

But the storm tacked away from the key tourist islands of Koh
Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao where large numbers of
travellers hunkered down for 24 hours in heavy rains, unable to
leave as airports closed and ferry services were cancelled.

“There were no casualties, there is some sunshine today and I’m
confident some tourists will be able to leave today as ferries
and flights resume,” said Koh Samui district chief Kittipop
Roddon.

But “red flag” swimming bans off what are normally sun-baked
paradise beaches at this time of year were still in place.

“It’s all over. All 10,000 tourists are safe . . . I am
relieved,” said Krikkrai Songthanee, district chief of
neighboring Koh Phangan, an island famed for its full-moon
parties.

High winds caused only minor damage, he added.

But holidaymakers keen to leave the islands face long delays
with a backlog of flights as three airports reopened and ferry
services slowly resumed on Saturday.

The storm was downgraded early Saturday to a depression with
wind speeds slackening as it moved into the Andaman Sea,
Thailand’s weather bureau said. 


– Power outages –


Pabuk made landfall on Friday afternoon in Nakhon Si Thammarat
province, south of the tourist hubs on the Gulf of Thailand,
hammering the coastal province with rain.

Authorities warned of flash floods as some parts remained
inundated by a combination of rainfall and storm surges.

Around 200,000 people were left without electricity as dozens
of power poles were toppled by high winds or falling trees,
with 30,000 waiting for supply to be reconnected early
Saturday, authorities said.

Residents returned to find homes slaked in mud and ankle-deep
water, while many southern roads remained blocked by the fallen
power lines.

“The roofs on some rooms in my house are gone. The house is
filled with mud,” Boonchuay Chuaysri told AFP in Talum Puk — a
headland where the eye of storm barged through villages.

Others were relieved to find only broken windows as Pabuk’s
force was less destructive than first feared.

Pabuk struck in peak tourist season, a blow to the cash-cow
industry that is integral to Thailand’s economy.

The kingdom is expected to welcome a record 40 million visitors
this year.

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