PHANG NGA — Local fishing and hotel businesses in Phang Nga province are struggling to cope with damages caused by five metre waves that have been slamming the shores all weekend.
Bang Nian beach in Takuapa district, home to many luxury resort hotels and shops catered to foreign tourists, has been hit particularly hard by the storms. A number of beachside properties have been damaged by the waves and many homes have lost their rooftops to the strong winds.
"These are the biggest waves we have seen in 10 years," said Se Komkla, manager of the Shambhala Khaolak Resort.
The waves have damaged more than 100 buildings and 20 rai of agricultural land throughout the province, said the director of Phang Nga's Disaster Relief and Prevention Office.
Officials have also found cracks in the 3.5 million baht concrete seawall that was built to protect Bang Nian beach after a similar bout of waves hit the shore last year. Resort manager Mr. Se said the seawall has been largely ineffective as the ocean floor has sunk several metres since construction of the barrier began.
"When I stood near the seawall, I felt like there was an earthquake whenever a wave struck against it," Mr. Se told our correspondent. "Sometimes the splashes of water reached as high as a palm tree, which is around 10 metres tall."
A number of seaside hotels have resorted to putting up crude barricades made of sandbags to protect their properties against the waves. Chamras Lichia, a local administrator of Kuek Kak subdistrict, said officials estimate the waves have cost at least 5 million baht in damages so far. He warned that the situation may worsen in coming days while there is a full moon.
The National Meteorological Department has issued warnings of fierce weather along the southern coast of Thailand, especially on the Andaman Sea, and tourists have been advised to refrain from swimming or making speed boat trips to nearby islands.
Fishermen have also suffered from the storms. Krish Sitthibutr, a 44-year-old fisherman in Takuatung, said the waves have damaged his fish cages, allowing many fish to escape.
"I was supposed to meet with a merchant to sell my fish tomorrow," Mr. Krish said. He estimated that he lost more than 100,000 baht in fish.
The strong waves have reminded many residents of the 2004 tsunami that devastated much of southern Thailand. A rumour about a new tsunami has been spreading among communities in Phang Nga after strange cloud formations were sighted off the coast over the weekend.
However, director of Phang Nga's Disaster Relief and Prevention Office Somkiat Intarakam stressed that the waves are caused by a combination of heavy rain and a particularly high sea level, not by any seismic activity like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
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