BANGKOK — Tropical storm Pabuk is expected to weaken to a tropical depression before reaching Surat Thani province later tonight as the eye made landfall in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, the national forecasters announced Friday afternoon.
Evacuations were ordered and services suspended today as the storm pounding the nation’s south claimed its first reported victim. The center of Pabuk has reached the Pak Phanang district with gusts of up to 75 kph, according to the Meteorological Department.
A fisherman was killed and another went missing when their boat capsized off Pattani province earlier today. The man’s body was found on a beach in Yaring district. Thousands of people were told to evacuate in several provinces hit by tropical storm Pabuk since last night.
More than 100 foreign tourists had to be rescued by boat Friday from Koh Racha, an island off Phuket, because of potentially dangerous conditions on the island.
All flights were canceled at Nakhon Si Thammarat Airport, which closed this morning, while Surat Thani Airport was ordered shut at 4pm. Both airports are scheduled to reopen at noon on Saturday.
Those two provinces are expected to be the two hardest hit when the eye of the storm reaches the mainland as early as this evening, officials said.
As the storm brushed past the southern tip of the country last night, nearly 1,000 people in Pattani were evacuated due to fears of a possible storm surge along the coasts.
More than 30,000 residents in Nakhon Si Thammarat have been evacuated to temporary shelters, including those living in Laem Talumphuk – an area devastated by tropical storm Harriet in 1962. More than 900 people in 12 provinces died in that disaster.
Flash floods today submerged areas in Nakhon Si Thammarat City and Pak Phanang district under 50 centimeters to a meter of water, while strong winds toppled electric poles and trees, cutting off several roads.
Many areas in Pak Phanang had lost power since Friday afternoon as strong winds toppled a number of electric poles. The provincial deputy governor said all shelters set up prior to the storm were full and more were being set up. He estimated about 4,000 district residents to have left their homes.
Samui Airport in Surat Thani was packed with tourists trying to flee the storm last night. Songkhla province evacuated hundreds of residents in risk-prone areas.
About 20,000 tourists were left stranded on Koh Samui due to the halted ferry service since Thursday night, according to Kittipop Roddon, chief of Koh Samui. About 15,000 and 4,000 tourists remained on Koh Tao and Koh Phangan respectively.
Phuket barred all vessels from leaving the shore as of this morning until midnight Saturday at the earliest. Thirty-eight evacuation shelters capable of accommodating more than 22,000 people were set up.
The national weather service said Pabuk would affect the south’s eastern coast through Saturday.
Red flags were placed at beaches on Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan, forbidding people to swim.
The Education Ministry said nearly 1,500 schools in 11 provinces were shut today to brace for severe weather conditions.
National park officials have ordered 39 parks in 14 southern provinces closed until further notice.
State petrochemical company PTT said Tuesday its staff were evacuated from a drilling platform to the coast of Songkhla. Offshore operations have been suspended.
People on the southern islands can contact tourist police or disaster offices for information about shelters and evacuation orders at:
- Phuket Area (DDPM): 076-218-444
- Koh Samui and Nearby Islands : 077-430-018 (Tourist Police); 077-420-953 or 199 (DDPM)
- Krabi and Nearby Islands (Tourist Police): 075-637-208
- Nakhon Si Thammarat (DDPM): 081-797-5499