BANGKOK: Large parts of southern Thailand remain under floodwaters after more than a week of heavy monsoon rain as the government scrambled more emergency aid to more than a million affected residents.
According to the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, the floods, described as the worst experienced by the region in almost 50 years, have so far claimed 25 lives while two people have gone missing.
"About 1.1 million residents from 369,680 families in 12 provinces of southern Thailand were affected by the flooding," said the department's chief, Chatchai Promlert, in his daily update on the disaster on Tuesday (Jan 10).
The 12 provinces of southern Thailand affected by the floods are Pattalung, Narathiwat, Songkhla, Pattani, Trang, Yala, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Chumpon, Ranong, Prachuab Kiri Khan and Krabi.
In flood-hit areas of Surat Thani province, a tourist gateway to the party islands of Samui and Phangan, villagers said a week of rain had brought an unprecedented deluge.
"Every year it floods, but not like this," Chamnan Ingkaew, a village leader in Chaiya district told AFP.
"There are 100 houses in my village, but we all had to leave and everything inside was lost ... the water kept coming and coming, almost two metres high."
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Tuesday said residents should have heeded evacuation warnings issued ahead of the floods.
"Many people do not want to leave, they want to stay home," he said, adding that their reluctance was making the relief effort more pressing.
The widespread flooding has damaged five government installations, 218 roads and 59 bridges.
A heavy downpour in Prachuab Kiri Khan province on Monday night also caused the Phetkasem Highway, a major artery in southern Thailand, to be cut off when one of the bridges linking to it was swept away by swift currents.
The government has started building a temporary bridge to replace the damaged bridge, said the province's chief administration officer, Somporn Patchimphet.
He also said that the province's Bangsapan district hospital was flooded on Monday night, forcing the authorities to evacuate the patients to higher floors and to nearby hospitals.
The flooding has also shuttered the airport in Nakhon Si Thammarat and trains to the deep south.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) said the disaster will only have a minimal impact on the economy as the losses from the flooding were estimated to be not more than 15 billion baht (US$421 million).
The disaster will not have a big impact on the country's Gross Domestic Product, FTI chairman Chen Namchaisiri told local media. Southern Thailand is a major rubber producing region and its islands are a major attraction for foreign tourists.