Brits’ fury at Storm Pabuk evacuation chaos as closed Thai airports leave thousands stranded before ‘worst storm in a generation

The Foreign Office has warned British Nationals off going to the south of the country as the weather gets increasingly worse.

Katie Preston, 23, and her partner Liam Bland, 29, from Hartlepool are currently stranded on Koh Phangan after they were allowed to take the last boat out before services were stopped.

The couple arrived in Thailand on Boxing Day for a three-week holiday and have blasted the lack of information they've received.

Katie said: "We hadn't heard about any storm and none of the staff we spoke to at Samui airport or at the boats mentioned it so we didn't know it was going to happen.

"When we were walking to the hotel we thought it seemed quiet but didn't think much of it until we read everyone had left and ours was the last boat over to Phangan before they were suspending [the] service.


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"We haven't heard anything from any officials, I've only asked the hotel receptionist what we do if we need to leave, asking if someone will get us all out or if we make our own way – he said to just go ourselves and when I asked where to he said he's not sure."


David Schofield, 30, a concert pianist from Cheshire, has been staying at the Bangsak Merlin Resort on the western side of Thailand since December 22.

He said: "I've resorted to gathering my own information through apps (Windy, and Global Monitoring) as we have had zero information from the hotel and TUI our tour operator," he said.

"I am hoping the lack of information is that they hope that the storm will dissipate before reaching our side."


Paul Bains, 44, originally from Pontefract, Yorkshire, but now living in New Zealand, is currently on holiday with his family on the Thai island of Koh Sumui.

He said local officials haven't provided much information, but it is "not the worst weather" he's seen.

Mr Bains has been livestreaming the storm from his holiday resort.


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 visit bars and restaurants.

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.


Around 50,000 tourists are thought to have left the islands before the storm hit but some were not so lucky.

Footage shows hundreds of stranded tourists at an airport in Koh Samui as the storm approaches the region.

Flights to the island were cancelled – as well as boats – leaving thousands of holidaymakers who haven't fled the popular island stuck.


The region was today braced for 22ft high waves and winds of up to 100mph as the storm makes its way across the Gulf of Thailand.

Hundreds without hotel rooms are crammed into Koh Samui's tiny airport in the hope for the planes to start jetting off again.

Bangkok Airways – the only carrier that operates flights to the island – said yesterday that it decided to suspend the service due to forecasts of gusty winds and heavy rain.

It later announced on Twitter that it would restart flights tomorrow after the storm has passed.

Tourists stranded on Koh Samui were seen stockpiling food in supermarkets as they prepared to weather the storm.

 

Jo Slade, 48, and her husband Des are stranded on Koh Samui and said the weather was "horrific".

She told The Mirror: "The weather is horrific and all flights today are cancelled. Many people here are stranded.

"We are due to begin our journey back to UK tomorrow. Fingers crossed it all calms down.

"Our complex Centara Villas is right in the beach. We are watching huge waves crashing down and everyone at the hotel is nervous and eager to get back to their UK homes.

"We can’t believe this time yesterday we were sunbathing on the beach. The noise of the wind is very scary. We’ve been told to stay in our rooms and stay safe. The rain is torrential."

The storm, dubbed the worst in a generation, has already claimed the life of one person as it battered the south coast.

 

Trees have come down and roofs have been blown off as Tropical Storm Pabuk rips across the south east Asian nation.

CURRENT FOREIGN OFFICE ADVICE

It said: "Tropical Storm Pabuk made landfall on the southern coast of Thailand at 12:45 local time on 4 January 2019.

"This is affecting boat sailings and flights in affected areas, which may include Surat Thani (Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao), Chumporn, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phuket, Krabi, Trang, Ranong, Phang Nga, Satun and Song Khla, as well as Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat.

"You should check your travel plans with transport providers before leaving your hotel or home, follow instructions from local authorities and monitor weather warnings from the Thai Meteorological Department."

It added: "You can also find advice on our Tropical Cyclones page.

"If you need to contact local emergency services, call 1155 (tourist police) or 1669 (emergency medical services)."

Officials are warning against the risk of flash floods as winds churned up high waves and gusts in the Gulf of Thailand as the storm made landfall in the Pak Phanang district of Nakhon Si Thammarat province, where trees crashed down on houses causing widespread damage.

Disaster mitigation officials said the person killed was among the crew of a fishing boat that capsized in strong winds near the coast of nearby Pattani province. Another of the crew was missing, but four others were safe.

Weather officials warned of torrential downpours and strong winds in 15 provinces in the south of the country, home to one of the world's largest natural rubber plantations and several islands thronged by tourists.

By the afternoon the storm was slowing and heading for the province of Surat Thani, the Thai Meteorological Department said in a statement.

What's happening in Koh Phangan

Travel blogger Jordan Bishop, who is currently on Koh Phangan, told Sun Online Travel that all of the ferries to Koh Phangan have also been suspended and a maximum alert had been issued by the government.

He said: "About an hour ago, a maximum alert was issued, which shows that the government knows the severity of the storm yet still can't do much about it.

 

Many tourists are now stuck on the islands as the storm approaches

"Ban Pak Trae, one of the seaside villages on the mainland (in Songkhla), was flooded by torrential downpours last night.

"The cell network is down on much of the island, as is electricity in many places.

"Some spots on the island have solar panels, and are now running off of batteries, but a large portion of the island is currently blacked out."

"The waves are also getting stronger. It seems that things will continue to get worse before they get better."

"It is expected to downgrade to be a tropical depression," it added. "People should beware of the severe conditions that cause forest runoffs and flash floods."

The conditions are expected to persist into Saturday. With airports and ferry services shut, people were advised to stay indoors until the storm passed.

The National Disaster Warning Center also sounded alarms around tourist beach destinations, such as Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, urging people to leave high-risk areas for higher ground.

During the past few days over 6,000 people have been evacuated to shelters from Nakhon Si Thammarat as well as the provinces of Pattani, Songkhla and Yala, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation has said.

The Nakhon Si Thammarat airport said it had closed and low-cost Nok Airlines Pcl said it had cancelled all eight flights to and from the province.

The Surat Thani airport will also close from Friday afternoon to Saturday, cancelling flights by Nok Airlines, Lion Air, and Thai Smile, a subsidiary of national carrier Thai Airways.

Earlier, Bangkok Airways Pcl said it had canceled all flights to and from the holiday destination of Koh Samui, where ferry services have also been suspended.

National energy company PTT Exploration and Production Pcl said it had suspended operations at Bongkot and Erawan, two of the country's biggest gas fields in the Gulf of Thailand.

Local advice on Koh Samui

This includes Wat Chaeng Temple, Baan Anythong School, Wat Lamai School, Baan NaKai School, Wat Sawangarom Temple, International College of Tourism, Plai Laem Temple, Bai Yoke Hotel, Theeparatwittaya School, Wat Nara Jareonsuck Temple, Koh Samui School and Wat Kunnaram Temple.

The Sun's Dan Wootton, who is currently stranded on Koh Samui, explained the situation was "getting worse" as the storm is expected to get bigger in the next few hours.

Emergency repatriation consultant Ian Paterson told Sun Online Travel that ferry services to and from Koh Samui are expected to stay suspended until Saturday.

He added: "The next available public flight to book from Koh Samui airport is not until 8th Jan at 6am."

Tens of thousands of tourists left on ferries bound for Thailand’s southern mainland before services were suspended today.

However, many people have been left stranded on the islands as the storm howls towards them.

There are fears that the storm will be the worst to hit Thailand since 1989 when Typhoon Gay left more than 400 dead.

Yesterday a Russian tourist in Koh Samui died Wednesday as he tried to rescue his daughter, who was struggling in strong surf.

What is happening on Koh Phi Phi

The holidaymakers queued up on Koh Phi Phi in the south of Thailand as the island was expected to be hit by heavy rain and winds of up to 100mph from tropical storm Pabuk.

Boats took the tourists to the mainland in Krabi province, where officials were working today to give them all a place to stay.

Storm Pabuk is expected to hit land just after nightfall – around 7pm local time – in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, southern Thailand.

Deputy Governor of Krabi Somkuan Kanngern said that disappointed hotels and restaurants had tried to persuade the tourists to stay – in what should have been a lucrative time in the areas tourism high season.





Holidaymakers have complained on social media that they were given little warning of the storm by their hotels or airlines.

Pabuk is the first tropical storm in around 30 years to hit outside the country’s monsoon season which lasts from May until October.

The high winds and rain are set to move towards mainland Thailand after savaging the islands.




Thailand's Meteorological Department said the storm will lash southern Thailand's east coast through Saturday.

Army trucks were driving around remote seaside areas searching for stragglers who had not yet been evacuated.

Krikkrai Songthanee, Koh Phangnan district chief, confirmed that “between 30,000 to 50,000” people had left the “almost empty” islands since New Year’s Eve.

However, the mayor of Koh Tao said that while boats were packed with tourists leaving the popular island, several thousand guests remained stranded on the paradise getaway.



Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha: “There will be heavy rainfall and we have to prepared for flooding or an impact on transportation.

“We are ready ourselves but if the rainfall is high we will need some time to resolve problems.”

Forecasters say that despite its 65mph winds, the storm is unlikely to develop into a full-blown hurricane.

Phuwieng Prakammaintara, director general at the Thai Meteorological Department, spoke about the giant waves Pabuk is expected to create.

He said: “But we expect waves as high as five or seven metres (22ft) near the eye of the storm.

“Normally in the Gulf of Thailand there are only two metre high waves.

“It's difficult to predict the severity of the storm so people should comply with authorities' recommendations.”

The storm is also expected to dump heavy rain across the south, including tourist hotspots in the Andaman Sea such as Krabi and the southernmost provinces bordering Malaysia of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala.

Pabuk means giant catfish in Lao – the language of neighbouring Laos which is very similar to Thai.



 

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