Stranded tourists rescued


Bad weather caused by Cyclone Nargis forced navy ships to rescue stranded holidaymakers from islands in the Andaman Sea yesterday, while a mudslide alert is in place in 16 northern provinces. HTMS Thayan Chon rescued 302 tourists, both Thai and foreigners, from the Surin islands after they were stranded by high seas and strong winds caused by the cyclone.

The tourists arrived safely at port in Khura Buri district yesterday.

The rough seas made it impossible for shuttle ferries to operate.

The tropical cyclone, packing 190-kilometre-per-hour winds, ripped through Rangoon early yesterday, tearing off roofs, uprooting trees and knocking out electricity, although no deaths were reported. Officials from the weather department said Nargis was expected to continue its northeasterly path. At 4pm yesterday, the cyclone was 180km southwest of Mae Hong Son.

Vice-Adm Supoj Prueksa, commander of the Third Fleet, said another navy ship was sent to rescue 125 tourists stranded on the Similan islands on Friday night. They could not return to shore because of bad weather. He said navy ships, helicopters and medical teams were on standby around the clock for the rescue operation.

Several northern provinces were bracing for flash floods as heavy rain was reported over much of the North.

A mudslide warning was issued in villages in 12 of the northern provinces.

Thada Sattha, chief of the Mae Hong Son weather station, said Nargis was losing strength but was expected to bring heavy rainfall in Mae Hong Son last night.

The Central region as well as some provinces in the East are also expected to experience heavy rain.

The provinces to be affected by Nargis are Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Tak, Kamphaeng Phet, Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae, Uttaradit, Sukhothai, Phichit, Phayao, Phitsanulok, Nakhon Sawan, Uthai Thani, Kanchanaburi, Ranong, Chanthaburi and Trat.

Chiang Mai deputy governor Pairoj Saengpuwong ordered disaster prevention and mitigation officials to make the necessary preparations and warn people to be on alert, especially those living in low-lying areas. He said landslide prevention measures had been taken in 36 villages in Chiang Mai.