BANGKOK — Relief is unlikely to come soon for the flood-devastated south, with word that more monsoon rains are inbound to inundate the region.
After prematurely sending an all-clear signal last week, officials on Wednesday warned residents in the southern provinces to brace for even heavier rains and higher waves along the gulf due to a high-pressure system moving in from China.
Record-setting rainfall combined with other factors created a perfect storm of conditions that has resulted in the worst flooding in a decade, affecting more than 1.6 million people. As of Wednesday, the deaths of at least 76 people were blamed on the flooding.
“Factors in this year’s heavy flooding include the northeast winter monsoon, a low pressure system marinating in the south that resulted in continuous days of rain and environmental issues,” said Jomkwan Sakkamat of the Meteorological Department.
January’s rainfall destroyed the records set in recent years. For example, Phetchaburi received 99.1 millimeters of rain on Jan. 9, breaking the previous record of 74.7 millimeters set Jan. 28, 1989.
But some of the flooding crisis is the result of human activity, Jomkwan said.
“Increased construction and deforestation are also reasons for the flash floods,” she said, adding that environmental problems were bigger factors than water management issues. “Usually in the south, floodwaters drain quickly into water resources or the sea, so we should be looking at land use rather than water management as a major factor.”
Heavy, scattered thundershowers are expected to build and intensify through Sunday, especially in the provinces of Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, Songkhla, Pattani, Yala, Trang and Satun.
People in affected areas should be prepared for flash floods, landslides and large waves cresting the shore to come inland.
Waves in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea are expected to reach up to three meters in height. Large vessels should exercise caution, and small boats are advised to stay ashore until after Sunday.