Hat Yai city left reeling by its worst-ever flood
Published: 3/11/2010 at 12:00 AM
SONGKHLA Rescuers have struggled to get help to thousands of people stranded in their homes after three days of heavy rain triggered a massive flash flood that knocked down power poles and cut communications in Hat Yai city.
Officials said tens of thousands of people were trapped yesterday in the southern commercial hub which is facing its worst-ever flood crisis.
Torrential rains since Monday caused by a depression in the Gulf of Thailand engulfed Hat Yai municipality and many other areas of the South.
Many districts are under as much as three metres of water. One resident has been electrocuted during the flooding.
Many residents are stranded on the second floor of their homes, unable to venture out for food and supplies, while tourists are being forced to stay in their hotel rooms as rescuers and relief supplies have yet to reach them.
There are about 850,000 people in greater Hat Yai and 180,000 in the city centre.
Officials said a woman was forced to give birth in her room in an apartment block as the high flood waters prevented her from being taken to hospital.
Major roads in Hat Yai such as Phetkasem, Thammanoonvithi and Niphat Uthit were cut by floods with traffic lights shorting out and abandoned vehicles covered with water.
A sudden power failure created panic throughout the municipality.
Meanwhile, banks, petrol stations, schools and state agencies have been shut indefinitely.
Patients at Hat Yai hospital had to be evacuated to higher floors to avoid surging flood waters.
Surachai Lumlertkittikul, director of Hat Yai General Hospital, said more than 500 patients in the hospital were suffering from a shortage of food as relief supplies were taking time to get through.
''Two of our three generators which we need to save the lives of seriously ill patients are out of action from the flooding, while fuel for the remaining one is near to running out,'' Dr Surachai said.
The power failure disrupted thousands of base stations for cellular phones. Mobile phone connections have failed in many areas, particularly in Hat Yai, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phatthalung, Pattani and Surat Thani.
Kimyong and Santisuk markets, which are Hat Yai's major commercial areas and popular with tourists, are under 1.20 metres of water.
Hat Yai mayor Prai Pattano admitted the municipal authorities were caught off guard by the unusually heavy flooding.
''We are now at our wits' end in trying to deal with the crisis and get help through to the victims,'' Mr Prai said.
He said about 80% of Hat Yai was submerged and more than 30,000 households affected, with people stranded and helpless as rescuers cannot reach them yet.
Their Majesties the King and Queen have ordered staff at Taksin Palace in Narathiwat to supply food and clothing to flood victims.
Officials have delivered about 5,000 bags of supplies by helicopter to areas in Songkhla, Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Satun.
The navy, the air force and the army are working with aid agencies to try to get relief through to the flood victims.