Tropical storm’s rain, surging seas strike Thai beaches

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Thai people sleep at an evacuation center in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, Thailand, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Thai weather authorities are warning that a tropical storm will bring heavy rain and high seas to southern Thailand and its famed beach resorts. (AP Photo/Sumeth Panpetch)

Laem Talumpuk, Thailand (AP) — Rain, winds and surging seawater were striking southern Thailand on Friday as a strengthening tropical storm approached coastal villages and world-famous tourist resorts.

Authorities made their final rounds in coastal Nakhon Si Thammarat province driving trucks through flooded streets with downed power lines and urging people to leave.

“Anyone still inside. Please make noise and officials will help you out. You cannot stay here. You cannot stay here. It’s too dangerous,” officials said from a truck fitted with loudspeakers.

Tropical Storm Pabuk is forecast to make landfall Friday evening in Nakhon Si Thammarat on Thailand’s east coast and bring torrential rain and strong winds to more than a dozen other provinces, including Surat Thani, home to the popular tourist islands of Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan.

The Meteorological Department said Friday morning the storm had maximum winds of 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph) and that waves 3 to 5 meters (10 to 16 feet) high were possible in the Gulf of Thailand, and 2 to 3 meters (6 to 10 feet) high in the Andaman Sea on the west coast. It warned of strong winds and storm surges on the gulf side and said all ships should stay berthed on land through Saturday.

In Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Pak Phanang on Friday, a father and a son rushed off with their belongings on their pickup truck, quickly telling reporters the roof of their house was already damaged.

Officials used trucks to help fishermen move boats off the beach, which was being beaten up by strong waves.

“You can’t stay around here,” local official Dahloh Bin Samah said in a beachfront interview aired on local TV. “These will be all razed down. Every monsoon, beachfront restaurants around here are damaged every year. But this time, we got a tropical storm coming. There won’t be anything left. Nothing.”

Thai authorities suspended ferry services in the Gulf of Thailand and flights to Nakhon Si Thammarat and Koh Samui were canceled.

On Koh Samui, beach guards hoisted red flags to warn people to stay out of the sea. Police patrolled beaches, although many were almost deserted.

A man raises a red flag indicating rough weather conditions in Chaweng beach, Koh Samui, Thailand, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.(AP Photo/Sithipong Charoenjai)

There are fears that the storm will 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.

Two natural gas production platforms in the Gulf of Thailand directly in the path of the storm suspended operations and had their personnel evacuated to shore, said the exploration and production arm of the Thai state oil company PTT. It said drilling rigs and vessels had been moved to unaffected areas, and gas production at a third platform remained operating to help meet energy needs.