Severe flooding in southern Thailand has left at least 25 dead and caused thousands to evacuate, after whole villages were engulfed by the rising waters.
Thai navy officers evacuate tourists stranded on Koh Tao island by helicopter
Floods over a meter deep have washed across swathes of the south as unseasonably wet weather had deluged the homes and businesses of around a million people. At least 25 people have died from the flooding and landslides following over a week of torrential rain. At least five villagers were killed by mudslides in Khao Phanom district, Krabi province, where troops have been searching for victims in villages submerged by up to two meters of mud in some places.
Thai villagers take shelter at a temple after severe flooding hit their village in Krabi province
Army helicopters are being used to air-drop aid into isolated areas on Friday and rescue elderly people trapped by the floods.
Deputy Prime Minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, says the residents were caught "off guard" by the scale of the disaster. "I am very concerned about those people because many roads were washed away in the flood and a lot of farmland was submerged," as quoted by AFP.
Television footage has shown homes, bridges and roads being destroyed by deadly landslides, leaving some areas cut off. Train services are still unable to run in the affected region.
A total of 87 districts in eight southern provinces have been declared disaster zones. Thailand's department of disaster prevention and mitigation says hundreds of properties, including homes, schools and temples, over 2,000 roads and 222 bridges have been damaged.
Flooding affects popular island resorts
The storm-struck areas include some of Thailand's most popular beach and island resorts such as Krabi province and the islands of Phuket and Samui, disrupting most ferry and plane services to these sites.
Royal Thai Navy ship transport tourists to safety
Around 9,000 people have been evacuated from waterlogged areas. Thailand's navy has used helicopters and an aircraft carrier to rescue nearly 1,000 tourists stranded by heavy rains on islands in the Gulf of Thailand and Andaman Sea.
Sophon Pengprapan, head of Similan National Park, a popular coral reef diving destination, has stated they were not as yet accepting tour boats due to "unfavorable weather conditions."
Meanwhile ferry and plane services to the popular resort of Koh Samui have now resumed. Bannasat Ruangjan, chairman of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, says the situation is "returning to normal" as floodwaters have receded. But he adds that roads and water pipes are in need of repair in some places and that 30 percent of hotel bookings have been cancelled. Thailand's weather bureau has forecast that the rains will ease up this weekend.
Sherpem Sherpa (AFP/AP/dpa)
Editor: Sarah Berning