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Gaemi

Gaemi bows out with whimper

Tropical storm Gaemi - the source of much anxiety across the country, thanks to severe warnings by government officials - had weakened to a tropical depression by the time it hit Thailand late on Sunday.

It was just a low-pressure cell yesterday and its impact likely end soon, weather officials said.

The Meteorological Department said Gaemi would cause downpours in some provinces for just the next couple of days. The low-pressure cell was expected to reach Myanmar by today.

The storm spread heavy rain across the North, Central and Northeast regions.

Some Bangkok roads were temporarily flooded, as they usually are in heavy downpours, and there were the routine traffic jams during the morning rush hour.

"We swiftly took action by removing malfunctioning vehicles and quickly draining the rainwater. So, there's no traffic crisis," Traffic Police Division commander Maj General Piya Tawichai said.

Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra said the total rainfall was about 40 to 60 millimetres - an amount the capital's drainage system could easily cope with.

Science Minister Plodprasob Surassawadee, who had earlier warned of a severe storm and advised everyone to stay at home, said the flood threat would be virtually gone by the end of this month.

"The overall situation will return to normal within seven days," said Plodprasob, who is chairman of the Water and Flood Management Commission (WFMC).

After this month, only the South would face risks of flash floods.

Royol Jitdon, an expert on the WFMC, said officials in charge of water drainage would closely watch the situation till October 31.

Royol said high-pressure ridges from China were now spreading to Thailand's North and Northeast.

"So, the upper part of Thailand is stepping into wintertime. Rainfall will reduce," Royol said. Another tropical storm named Prapiroon was brewing near Guam and headed toward Taiwan yesterday. While it was named after the Thai rain god, the storm would not affect Thailand at all, he said.

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Warning Centre (NDWC) repeated that there would not be a storm surge on coastal areas on the Gulf of Thailand, regardless of whether Gaemi was "active" or had turned into a smaller depression.

NDWD director Samith Thammasaroj said an earlier warning for fishing trawlers not to head offshore yesterday and today because of possible high seas caused by Gaemi should be discounted. "The warning about a possible surge at the height reaching five to 10 metres caused worry and panic, and affecting fishing trawlers, as there is an order against them going offshore on both days," he said.

Storm surges were possible under several key factors. These included a storm originating or expanding over sea, he said, like the ones that developed into Typhoon Gay in 1989, which killed 800 in the Thai south, or tropical storm Harriet in 1962, which hit Nakhon Si Thammarat and claimed 1,700 lives.

City workers and flood relief officials were still stationed at 10 areas of risk of flash flooding in Bangkok despite reports of Gaemi weakening, Sanya Cheewanimit, head of Bangkok's Department of Drainage and Sewerage. An average rain volume of 20 mm per hour was measured in Bangkok yesterday, with the highest in Khlong Sam Wa at 34 mm per hour. The highest in the previous 24 hours, on Saturday, was 64.5 mm per hour in Bang Khun Thien. He said light rain was still expected till this morning.




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