BANGKOK (eTN) – Climate changes due to rising temperatures continue to have a severe impact on many Southeast Asian countries. Much like the Philippines and Vietnam are regular victims of typhoons, and repeated earth tremors and volcanic eruptions occur in Indonesia, Southern Thailand braces regularly for flooding. In September 2010, massive flash flooding severely hit Hat Yai, Thailand’s largest city in the deep south. Continuous rain completely devastated the city center. Over the last ten days, torrential rains translated into heavy floods again in the southern provinces. According to reports from the Prime Minister’s office, 11 Southern Thai provinces are now affected with some of the country’s most prominent tourism areas also affected. Mudslides occurred in Phang Na, Phuket, and Krabi with many villages destroyed and claiming many victims. Rain was easing in the area over the week end.
On the Southeast Coast, Koh Samui was severely affected with the airport closed for a couple of days and water invading many hotel lobbies. Early this week, the Koh Samui Tourism Association estimated that damages from torrential rains and storms could reach over a billion baht (US$330 million). On this Monday, the airport was operating normally. However, tourists are now fleeing the resort island while the Songkran festival season (Thailand’s traditional New Year due to start by the end of the week) seems to be in jeopardy. Speaking to the Bangkok Post, Bannasat Ruangjan, Koh Samui Tourism Association’s president, indicated that hotel room reservations for the upcoming Songkran Festival were down to 50% of total capacity. “We just want to tell them that Samui is safe for travel right now,” he said. The association asked Samui’s 430 hotels to evaluate their damages. Countries such as Australia, the UK, and the USA already issued travel warnings to their citizens, asking them to avoid the southern provinces hit by flash floods.
In Nakhon Si Tammarat and Surat Thani, airports were closed over the last week. Nakhon Si Tammarat airport’s closure was a historical event according to his director, Nisit Sombat. The runway was under 50 cm of water while entrance gates to the airport were under a meter of water. According to information, the airport could eventually re-open on Wednesday, after engineers complete safety checks on electrical installations. Airlines started to organize transfers to neighboring airports in Hat Yai and Trang, which remain open. Airlines have resumed operations in Surat Thani but most flights are encountering delays.
The Siam Commercial Bank said the impact from flooding will be short-lived. In the worst-case scenario, Thailand’s tourism sector could lose up to 10 billion baht with the GDP reduced by 0.1 percent. But this scenario is unlikely to turn into reality.