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Tropical storm buffets Thailand’s tourist spots

One person was reported dead and another missing after a fishing boat with a crew of six capsized in high waves.

Rain, wind and surging seawater from a tropical storm have buffeted coastal villages and famous tourist resorts on southern Thailand’s east coast, knocking down trees and utility poles and flooding roads.

One person was reported dead and another missing after a fishing boat with a crew of six capsized in high waves, but there were no reports of major damage by nightfall.

It appeared that Tropical Storm Pabuk caused aggravation during the country’s high tourist season but less damage than had been feared.

Airlines and boat operators suspended operations for safety reasons and tourists were forced to change travel plans.

Beaches were closed, but even with the bad weather approaching, tourists on the popular island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand continued to attend bars and restaurants.

That was good fortune for the tourism industry, whose safety problems were highlighted last July when 47 Chinese tourists drowned after their boat sank in rough seas near the popular resort of Phuket.

Ahead of this week’s storm, more than 6,100 people in four provinces were evacuated, according to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.

Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Pabuk (AP Photo/Thanis Sudto)

The Meteorological Department said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 40mph at late afternoon, down from 47mph when it hit land shortly after noon.

It continued to warn of strong wind and waves 10ft to 16ft high in the Gulf of Thailand and 6ft to 10ft in the Andaman Sea. It advised all ships to stay ashore until Saturday and warned of possible storm surges on the Gulf coast.

Evacuation efforts were especially intense in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, where authorities sent trucks through flooded streets with downed power lines, urging people in danger zones to leave.

“You cannot stay here. It’s too dangerous,” they repeated from truck-mounted loudspeakers.

Koh Samui appeared to have been spared much of the brunt of the storm.

(PA Graphics)

Southern Thailand also has popular resorts on its west coast on the Andaman Sea, and they now await the storm.

The navy said Thailand’s sole aircraft carrier, the HTMS Chakri Naruebet, was on standby at its base east of Bangkok, prepared to sail to help with relief efforts at a moment’s notice.

PTT Exploration and Production Public said it had inspected its offshore gas platforms in the Gulf of Thailand and planned to resume production on Sunday. It said all staff were safe.

There had been fears that the storm would be the worst to hit Thailand since 1989, when Typhoon Gay left more than 400 people dead. A tropical storm in 1962 killed more than 900 people in the south.

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