By The Nation
PEOPLE LIVING along the coast of Nakhon Si Thammarat province are moving to higher ground as they brace for the arrival of tropical storm Pabuk today.
The Nakhon Si Thammarat airport was closed last night, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said yesterday.
The closure affects flights provided by Nok Air, AirAsia and Lion Air. Airports of Thailand has instructed airports in Surat Thani, Chumphon, Ranong, Trang and Narathiwat to closely monitor the storm and take measures to deal with its impact.
The Meteorological Department announced yesterday that Pabuk had entered the Gulf of Thailand and was moving slowly northwest toward Nakhon Si Thammarat, threatening the entire eastern coast of the South with heavy rainstorms, strong gales and storm surge.
Weather forecasts are projecting the eye of the storm will pass over Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Hua Sai district today with a maximum wind speed of around 90 kilometres per hour.
Pabuk is also expected to bring heavy downpours of up to 300 millimetres daily, plus flash floods and landslides in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Songkhla, Phatthalung, Surat Thani, Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Chumphon, Satun, Trang, Krabi and Phuket.
Wattana Kanbua, director of the Marine Meteorological Centre, also warned of very rough sea conditions, saying waves could reach 7 metres high in the Gulf of Thailand and up to 3 metres in the Andaman Sea.
With strong gales and high waves expected, Wattana said people living along the eastern coasts of Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao, as well as the eastern coast of Nakhon Si Thammarat and Songkhla will be hit by a storm surge. He suggested everybody should stay away from the coastline during the storm.
More than 30,000 residents of Nakhon Si Thammarat’s six seaside districts have been moving to evacuation centres set up amid concerns that Pabuk will cause severe damages. Many fear this storm will be similar to the tropical storm Harriet, which hit the province in October 1962, killing over 900 people and leaving more than 16,000 others displaced.
These six districts are Pak Phanang, Hua Sai, Tha Sala, Sichon, Khanom and Muang Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Sichon district chief Piboon Nakthippiman said the evacuation operation in his area had been conducted smoothly and that more than 2,400 people have already taken shelter at the Wat Huai Saithong School. He also said the centre was fully equipped with all the supplies and equipment needed to endure the impact of the storm.
Nongyao Rodkaew, one of the evacuees, said that though the official evacuation operation was executed efficiently, she was worried about the storm causing extensive damage.
Along with residents of the six districts of Nakhon Si Thammarat, people living on the coastal areas of Songkhla, Surat Thani, Phatthalung and Chumphon have also been evacuated to higher ground. Schools in these provinces were closed today.
All ships in the Gulf of Thailand have been anchored since yesterday, while flights from affected provinces will be suspended today.
Tourism on both sides of the peninsula has also been disrupted, with visitors fleeing popular destinations like Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao. Ferry services and boat tours to Koh Phi Phi and other islands in Krabi province on the Andaman Sea were also stopped today.