Flooding in Thailand kills 11, strands thousands of tourists

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2011 1:36 AM
Flooding in Thailand kills 11, strands thousands of tourists

By Ambika Ahuja

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Severe flooding in southern Thailand has killed 11 people and stranded thousands of tourists on resort islands, authorities said on Wednesday, predicting more rain and issuing warnings for possible mudslides.

Nearly a million people have been affected by more than a week of unseasonably heavy downpours across the region with tens of thousands of families cut off from air and land transport.

Trains to the region have been canceled and three airports have been shut, including one on the resort island of Koh Samui which is popular among Thai and foreign tourists.

Several main roads and highways have been blocked by floods.

The Thai navy sent four vessels including an amphibious landing craft with on-board helicopters to the rubber-rich region to deliver supplies and rescue tourists and villagers in areas severely hit.

"The army and the navy are working together to help those stranded and evacuate others who live in areas at risk of a mudslide," Satit Wongnongtoey, a minister in the prime minister's office, told Reuters.

"More rain is expected in the next few days."

The flooding, however, has had little impact on rubber production in region which produces around 90 percent of Thailand's annual production of around 3.2 million tonnes.

No shipment delays have been reported. Farmers stopped tapping trees for rubber in late February in anticipation of normally dry weather at this time of year.

"Not much rubber is carried by trucks to be shipped from Bangkok's ports. Most of it is shipped in bulk down to Malaysia's Penang port," said a trader at Thailand's Hat Yai rubber center.

(Additional reporting by Apornrath Phoomphongphiphat; Editing by Jason Szep and Sanjeev Miglani)