World, Asia - Pacific

Thai military deployed to cope with massive flooding

1000s of people stranded in their homes in 10 southern provinces, with at least 19 people dead

08.01.2017
Thai military deployed to cope with massive flooding FILE PHOTO

By Max Constant

BANGKOK

Military forces have been deployed to Thailand’s south to cope with massive flooding, with ships being moored off the coast to aid victims.

Local media reported Sunday that hundreds of thousands of people had been stranded in their homes after torrential rain brought rampant flooding to ten southern provinces, with the waters responsible for at least 19 deaths.

“A major effort is required to ensure people are moved to higher ground and receive food and medical supplies,” junta spokesman Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd told the Bangkok Post.

The armed forces have opened command centers -- under the responsibility of military officers -- in flood-ravaged areas in order to coordinate rescue and relief efforts.

“Each center chief will play a role in setting up units which will be deployed to assist in emergency operations,” said Kaewkamnerd.

The Nation newspaper quoted Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Director, Gen. Chatchai Promlert, as saying Sunday that 19 people had died.

On Saturday, the navy's biggest landing platform dock, the HTMS Ang Thong, arrived in Nakhon Si Thammarat to be used as a base to help flood victims.

Military helicopters are being utilized to transfer food and relief packages from the ships to residents stranded in their homes as many roads are submerged.

The commander of the southern military region, Lt.-Col. Piyawat Nakwanich, also ordered military barracks to be opened for civilians to act as temporary shelters.

Each provincial governor has been given 20 million baht ($560,000) by the military government to be used for relief, with additional funding to be approved by a committee chaired by junta leader-cum-prime minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Since Jan. 1, the unusually strong rains have drenched Thailand’s south, cutting off roads and rail tracks, forcing the closing of airports and affecting around 700,000 people.

In some villages, the water level has reached roof height.

Bridges have collapsed in some districts of Nakhon Si Thammarat province, leaving more than 10,000 villagers stranded.

The tourist islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phan-ngan have also been severely affected, with holidaymakers unable to leave for several days and electricity cut off.

It is customary in Thailand for the armed forces to be involved in relief efforts.

During massive floods in 2011, most of the relief effort was done by the military -- an operation which contributed to an improvement in the armed forces’ images after the bloody repression of anti-government demonstrations a year before.

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