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Thai navy rescues stranded tourists

Thailand's navy has used helicopters and an aircraft carrier to rescue more than 800 tourists stranded by heavy rains on the country's picturesque southern islands.

Torrential rains lasting nearly a week caused flooding and landslides which killed at least 17 people and disrupted ferry and plane services to popular islands.

The Royal Thai Navy said more than 700 travellers were transported from the island of Koh Tao to the mainland aboard a helicopter carrier, the Chakri Naruebet.

The navy also rescued more than 100 other tourists from nearby islands including Koh Phangan. The island is best known for its raucous monthly Full Moon Party.

The flooding has affected 840,000 people in eight southern provinces and inundated 61 highways, the Department of Disaster Prevention said.

Thai TV coverage showed parents clutching their babies on the aircraft carrier's deck and smiling backpackers giving a thumbs-up and taking pictures of their military rescue.

British, US, Australian, French and Russian citizens were among those rescued, the Tourism Ministry said. They were being transported to destinations such as Bangkok and Pattaya.

Airlines have resumed services to the resort island of Samui after its international airport was closed for several days.

Thailand's weather bureau forecast the rain would stop this weekend but warned of wind and 6ft waves, making it unsafe for small boats.

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