Authorities face tough test as tropical storm Pabuk expected to cause serious damage

national January 03, 2019 01:00

By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE NATION

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THAILAND’S measures to prepare for and mitigate extreme weather conditions are facing a tough test as tropical storm “Pabuk” makes its way toward the country.



Meteorological Department and the Office of National Water Resources (ONWR) confirmed yesterday that the first tropical storm of 2019, Pabuk, will make landfall in the upper South tomorrow with a maximum wind speed of 65 to 90 kilometres per hour. 

It is expected that areas in the storm’s path will suffer damages from strong gales and intense downpours of up to 300 millimetres, while it is expected to stir waves as high as 7 metres in the Gulf of Thailand. 

According to the Meteorological Department’s eighth warning, the storm was currently moving westward at the speed of 10 kilometres per hour and has already entered the Gulf of Thailand. Its maximum wind speed was 65km per hour at that time.

The storm appeared to have already hit the southernmost part of Thailand yesterday afternoon, as a large band of heavy rain was detected by the Meteorological Department’s radar in Narathiwat province.

Meteorological Department director-general Phuwieng Prakhammintara said considering the current wind speed and direction, the storm will move into the Gulf of Thailand, pass Koh Samui, and directly hit the coast of Surat Thani or Chumphon provinces tomorrow.

“We are very concerned about the safety and well-being of people in these two provinces, because these areas will suffer the most from severe gales and storm surges as Pabuk makes landfall,” Phuwieng said.

“So, we suggest people in these areas, especially those who live by the sea and low-lying areas, to evacuate to safer places.”

He further warned that provinces south of Phetchaburi were also at risk, as Pabuk will bring intense downpours of up to 300mm, so those living in areas prone to flash floods and landslides should also evacuate. 

The Meteorolo-gical Department has issued a warning of heavy downpours and strong gales in the provinces of Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, Songkhla, Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Ranong, Phang Nga, Phuket, Krabi, Trang and Satun.

Samroeng Sangphuwong, ONWR deputy secretary-general, said he was worried about the risk of overflowing rivers and dams, and cautioned that heavy rainfall will fill rivers and reservoirs to a critical point. 

Therefore, he urged the Royal Irrigation Department, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and other related agencies to carefully manage reservoir levels and drain as much water as possible before the storm hits. 

Meanwhile, Marine Meteorological Centre director Wattana Kanbua said tropical storm Pabuk is stirring the sea, creating waves of up to 7 metres high in the Gulf of Thailand and generating storm surge and coastal flood threats along the Gulf of Thailand.

“The seawater is being pushed by the storm, contributing to very high waves and a significant rise in sea levels, especially in the inner Bay of Bangkok,” Wattana warned. “Due to this dangerous situation, people should avoid the coast and all ships should remain anchored.” 

Nearly all activities in the Gulf of Thailand have been suspended due to rough sea conditions from the storm, with the Angthong Marine National Park in Surat Thani closed to all visitors until Saturday. Also, staff members of PTT oil-drilling rigs have been evacuated and all ferry services between Samui, Pha-ngan and Koh Tao islands have been stopped. 

Photo from: Lomprayah Catamaran's facebook

Lomprayah High Speed Ferries will stop taking tourists from Chumphon and Surat Thani to islands, such as Koh Tao, Koh Nangyuan, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Samui, from tomorrow, and will cancel trips on Saturday if the weather worsens. Likewise, Seatran Ferry will not take tourists to Koh Samui from today and will not accept books for tomorrow and Saturday either. 

Nakhon Si Thammarat Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada has designated six seaside districts of the province as disaster zones and ordered the evacuation of residents by this evening. All schools in these areas will be closed from today, while schools in Muang Nakhon Si Thammarat will be used to shelter the evacuees.