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30/03/2011 - Koh Samui, Thailand cut-off as storms rage

30/03/2011 - Koh Samui, Thailand cut-off as storms rage

Koh Samui, Thailand: Thousands of tourists have been left stranded as high winds and rain pound Koh Samui, causing widespread flooding, power outages and severing the Island’s transport links.

“This flooding is the worst we have seen in a decade. Flash floods have come rushing down from Samui’s hills, with two days of continual, pouring rain. The most important thing for us now is to evacuate people to safety,” said Koh Samui mayor, Chaikwang Ramnet.

Locals and expats have been using sandbags to prevent the rising flood waters from entering their homes and businesses after Samui took another battering last night.

Thai Authorities have started evacuating people to temples on higher ground as the flood waters continue to rise. Soldiers have been deployed to rescue people from the densely populated tourist areas of Chaweng, Maenam and Lamai.

Tourists are being advised to stay in their hotels until flights resume, as the only way to get on or off the Island at present is to hitch a lift with the Thai Navy.

Koh Samui’s tourist industry is likely to be hit hard as March and April form part of the tourist high season.

Flash floods have affected six southern provinces of Thailand over the past few days, causing land, sea, rail and air travel to be disrupted. The floods have caused devastating damage to farm land and property in many areas.

So far, the media have reported twelve deaths attributed to the floods, with over 700,000 people being affected throughout Thailand.

Phuket has also suffered from heavy rainfall and strong winds in recent days but disruption has been minimal with Phuket International Airport and other transport services reporting business as usual.

This isn’t the first time Koh Samui has been brought to a standstill by storms; on 2nd November 2010 the Island experienced flash floods which also left tourists stranded when the airport suspended all flights. Businesses experienced power outages and a number of hotels in oceanfront locations were forced to evacuate guests to higher ground.

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