At least one dead on capsized boat as Tropical Storm Pabuk batters Thailand
Power lines were knocked down and trees upended, but damage was not as bad as expected. (Reuters: Krittapas Chaipimon)
Rain, wind and surging seawater has buffeted coastal villages and world-famous tourist resorts on southern Thailand’s east coast, knocking down trees and utility poles and flooding roads.
- Authorities said the storm was easing and was expected to downgrade to be a tropical depression
- There had been fears that the storm would be the worst to hit Thailand since 1989
- Footage posted online shows powerful waves hitting beaches
One person was reported dead and another missing after a fishing boat with a crew of six capsized in high waves as Tropical Storm Pabuk hit the region, which is popular with tourists.
But by nightfall there were no reports of the major damage originally feared.
There had been fears that the storm would be the worst to hit Thailand since 1989, when Typhoon Gay left more than 400 people dead. A tropical storm in 1962 killed more than 900 people in the south.
Airlines and boat operators suspended operations for safety reasons and tourists were forced to change travel plans.
The Thai Meteorological Department said in a statement that the storm was “expected to downgrade to be a tropical depression”.
But they added that people should still “beware of the severe conditions that cause forest runoffs and flash floods”.
Footage on social media showed strong winds and raging seawaters battering the coast.
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.
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.
Thousands were evacuated to centres like this one in Nakhon Si Thammarat province. (AP: Sumeth Panpetch)
Evacuation efforts were especially intense in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, about 800 kilometres 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.
Officials told CNN there were around 20,000 tourists staying on Koh Samui, but said the island had enough food and supplies to last through the storm.
“The island is now totally cut off from the mainland, all kinds of transportation (to mainland) have been suspended since yesterday,” district chief of Koh Samui Kittipop Roddon said.
The Meteorological Department said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 kilometres per hour at late afternoon, down from 75kph when it hit land shortly after noon.
Southern Thailand also has popular resort destinations on its west coast on the Andaman Sea, in the path of the weakening storm.
The navy said Thailand’s sole aircraft carrier, the HTMS Chakri Naruebet, was on standby at its base east of Bangkok, prepared to sail to help with relief efforts at a moment’s notice.