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STORM PABUK TO HIT NAKHON, CHUMPHON, SURAT HARDEST: OFFICIAL

Tropical storm Pabuk will approach Thailand’s southern coasts tonight as three provinces are warned to feel the worst of it, an official said Thursday.

Disaster agencies started setting up emergency centers and evacuation shelters as several provinces in the lower south experienced strong winds and heavy rain last night. The storm is set to enter the Gulf of Thailand this afternoon and its center will move past Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani and Chumphon starting tomorrow, according to the head of the Meteorological Department.

“The edge of it has already brought rain to the whole lower south,” director-general Phuwieng Prakhammintara said by phone today. “It will slowly approach the mainland. Now its speed is at about 9kph.”

He added that the current rainfall is at about 120 to 150 millimeters per day, and the storm is expected to move into the Andaman Sea on Saturday.

Disaster officials said after an emergency meeting yesterday in Bangkok that Pabuk’s gusts could surge to up to 90kph before hitting the coasts, and accumulated landfall could be as high as 300 millimeters daily.

Samroeng Sangphuwong, a top official of the Office of the National Water Resources, said it’s unlikely that Pabuk will become as powerful as Typhoon Gay, which destroyed Chumphon and Prachuap Khiri Khan in 1989, but could still cause serious damage to buildings along the shores.

Meteorologist Seree Supratid said yesterday that the storm might be more devastating than when tropical storm Harriet hit the region in 1962 and ravaged 12 provinces.

The military said units across the region are ready to be deployed on relief and rescue missions. The navy said it would send one of its flagships for humanitarian assistance to Chonburi province.

Nakhon Si Thammarat officials said the province has set up 190 evacuation shelters that can accommodate up to 86,000 people. The Bang Saphan Hospital in Prachuap Khiri Khan said critical patients would be transferred to hospitals in the Prachuap city and other nearby provinces.

Marine scientist Thon Thamrongnawasawat warned of a possible storm surge in low lying areas along the coasts and sea waves as high as 5 meters. He said winds won’t be strong enough to tear down a building, and recommended people to remain indoors.

Officials said Chumphon, Surat Thani, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Phetchaburi are at high risk of flash floods. Other provinces to be affected are Phatthalung, Songkhla, Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Krabi, Trang, Satun, Ranong, Phang Nga and Phuket.

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