There was no let up to the heavy rain and associated flooding across southern Thailand on Tuesday, disrupting transport, tourism and day-to-day business.
The National Disaster Warning Centre forecast is for more heavy rain through Thursday or Friday.
The centre warned people in Satun, Trang, Krabi, Phuket, Phang Nga, Ranong, Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala, Songkhla, Phatthalung, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani and Chumphon of the danger of forest run-off and landslides.
Authorities in Koh Samui started evacuating people to temples on high ground after heavy rains caused flash floods that destroyed roads and disrupted communications.
Tourists sit on the lobby floor of Samui International Airport on March 28, 2011. (Photo by Karnjana Karnjanatawe)
Mayor Ramnet Chaikwang said soldiers were asked to use military boats to rescue people, especially in densely populated tourist areas of Chaweng, Lamai and Maenam.
He said floodwaters on parts of the tourist island have risen to waist level, making it difficult to reach and move people out of affected areas. There were power black outs in many parts of Samui.
“This flooding is the worst we have seen in a decade,” Mr Ramnet said.
Flash floods had come rushing down from Samui’s hills, with two days of continual, pouring rain. “The most important thing for us now is to evacuate people to safety,” he said.
He advised tourists to stay in their hotels until flights to the island resume.
People were seen frantically placing sandbags in hopes of preventing flood waters from entering their houses and businesses. Nonstop heavy rains and howling winds battered the island again.
The mayor estimated that damage to Samui’s economy could run as high as 100 million baht a day. March and April are Samui’s peak tourist season and flight cancellations due to this storm meant lost opportunities for the island, which relies solely on tourism.
Thousands of tourists were stranded as ferry services and flights to and from Samui have been cancelled since yesterday.
Reports said all 13 districts of Narathiwat province had seen continual rainfall since Monday night, causing widespread flooding in many areas.
A rescue team use a flat-bottom boat to evacuate people in flood-hit areas in southern Thailand. (Photo by Nucharee Rakrun)
About 90 per cent of land and plantations in Narathiwat were flooded, with the water between 40 and 50 centimetres deep.
Goods on sale in shops have been ruined as people could not move them to higher ground before the flood water surged into their premises.
In Surat Thani, the flood waters are above three metres in places with more than 3,000 households completely cut off.
Relentless monsoon rain has caused severe flooding, landslides and forest run-off from Kaeng Krung National Park.
Reports said rescue teams were struggling to evacuate more than 3,000 stranded families in flood-ravaged areas.
Hillside run-off and fallen trees had breached major bridges, cutting roads.
A village headman in Surat Thani, Chamnan Mai-in, was reported swept away by the surging waters and is still missing.
State Railways of Thailand (SRT) public relations chief Nuan-anong Wongchan said all train services to the South have been suspended because of the flooding.
Mrs Nuan-anong said the Bangkok-Surat Thani train which departed Hua Lamphong at 8.05am would stop at Chumphon.
Other South-bound trains, normally scheduled to leave Bangkok between 1pm and 10pm, have been suspended.
Passengers who bought tickets can get a full refund, she said.