Southern Thailand floods kill at least 6; Rubber production hit

The rail services on the main line linking Thailand to Malaysia have been suspended due to flooded tracks.

Thailand floods kill at least 6; PM visits flood-affected areas
People walk in a flooded street at Muang district in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province, southern Thailand, January 6, 2017. Reuters

At least six people have died and 120,000 households have been affected due to unseasonable rainfall and flooding across southern Thailand that has delayed flights and disrupted holidays during peak tourist season. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited the flooded regions on Friday.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that nine provinces in the country's southern part have been beset by monsoon rains for nearly a week. The torrential downpour has actually turned roads into rivers and upended stretches of rail track.

"The floods began on January 1 and are due to the unseasonable heavy rain," said an officer at the National Disaster Warning Center told Reuters.

Images circulated on social media showed a number of cars were nearly submerged in muddy waters. Some foreign tourists were seen bobbing along in inflatable tubes to the amusement of onlookers.

Tuula Fitzpatrick, the owner of a guesthouse in Samui, a popular tourist destination, said the latest flooding was the worst to hit the island in over a decade. "In our guesthouse there were lots of people whose flights were cancelled," Fitzpatrick told AFP.

"I've been living here for 12 years and I've never seen it so bad... It was scary. Some of my staff couldn't come to work," she added.

The authorities said on Friday that rail services on the main line linking Thailand to Malaysia have been suspended due to flooded tracks. "The flood waters have hit the tracks and in some places the track was washed away," Thanongsak Kongprasert, deputy governor of the State Railway of Thailand said.

Usually, Thailand's wet season ends in late November and heavy rain and flooding are quite rare in January. This untimely rainfall has also affected the rubber-production in the country as southern Thailand is a major rubber-producing region. The wet weather was having a significant impact on production.

"Farmers began tapping in December because they had to wait for the rainy season to end but now they have to contend with the floods," Uthai Sonlucksub, president of the Natural Rubber Council of Thailand said.