SURAT THANI: Tourists marooned on Thai islands hunkered down Friday as Tropical Storm Pabuk carved its way towards the kingdom, forcing airports and ferries to close and bringing downpours and massive sea swells, reports AFP.
Boats were recalled to shore across the Gulf of Thailand, while two key airports—Koh Samui and Nakhon Si Thammarat—were shut until Saturday, leaving tourists who remain on islands now cut off from the mainland.Meteorologists said Pabuk, the first tropical storm in decades to strike during the peak holiday season, had intensifed Friday morning and was due to make landfall imminently.
“Ten thousand tourists are still on Koh Phangan,” said Krikkrai Songthanee, district chief of the island which neighbours Samui and is famed for its full-moon parties.
“But I talked to foreigners last night and they are not scared, they understand the situation,” he told AFP. The eye of the storm is forecast to pass over Nakhon Si Thammarat, sparing the tourist islands to the north from a direct hit.
“But all tourist islands in the Gulf of Thailand including Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao will be affected because Pabuk is huge,” said Phuwieng Prakhammintara, head of the Thai Meteorological Department.
As it churns through the sea, Pabuk has gathered pace with 75-kilometre-an-hour (45 mile) winds stirring huge waves of up to five metres high (16 feet).
Social media videos showed oil rigs being battered by waves, and tankers navigating terrifying walls of water.With rains lashing the entire south, the Meteorological Department warned coastal communities to expect “inshore surges” as winds whip up the sea.
A fisherman in Pattani province, near the Malaysia border, died after waves smashed into his boat before dawn on Friday as it returned to dock. Another crew member is missing.
They join the only other confirmed fatality from Pabuk so far—a Russian man who drowned off Koh Samui on Wednesday after ignoring warnings not to go into the sea.