South-East Asia hit by worst floods in decades

Spawned by unrelenting rains, some of the most severe floods in decades have killed at least 130 people in peninsular South-East Asia, according to the latest reports on Thursday.

Three weeks of flooding in southern Thailand have left 52 people dead and thousands stranded without provisions in remote areas, while 69 people have perished in central Vietnam, some of them in landslides. Northern Malaysia, where nine are reported dead, is suffering the worst floods in 30 years.

In Thailand, a local government official said tens of thousands of people are stranded without necessary supplies as floods have affected nine of 14 provinces in the south.

“Food and water are running out for thousands of families who live in remote areas that the rescue team has not yet reached,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be seen as criticising the government.

Pensri Kheawkumpai, a disaster official in Nakorn Srithammarat, said 12 people have died in the province. Kaj Sentoyep, a disaster official for the deep south of Thailand, said 40 people have died in the seven southernmost provinces.

Local officials estimate one million people are affected and that it will take at least one month for the floods to recede from most parts of Pattani, Songkhla and Phattalung provinces.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has played down the severity of the floods, saying on Wednesday that “they were not as bad as the tsunami”.
State-owned media have reported only 19 people killed.

The opposition Democrat party has accused Thaksin of being slow to help flood victims because the southern region did not support his political party in the last election.

“The government as played down the situation and ignored the plight of the people in southern Thailand because the people in south did not vote for Thai Rak Thai [Thai Love Thai] party,” said Sathit Wongnongtoey, an opposition lawmaker.

This year’s flooding is regarded as the country’s worst in 40 years.

In Vietnam, the coastal Khanh Hoa province has been the worst hit with 32 deaths. Nearby Phu Yen province had 14 deaths while Binh Dinh province had 11 and central Quang Ngai province had five deaths.

Victims have included two children who drowned and nine construction workers buried under a mountain of earth.

Officials at the national weather centre in Hanoi said on Wednesday that rains will continue through the weekend, giving little relief to the heavily soaked region. River levels remain high but have started receding.

In the Central Highlands province of Daklak, the country’s main coffee-growing region, which has reported seven deaths, the coffee harvest has been postponed, said Pham Xuan Truong, the provincial disaster official. Truong said the floods have damaged about 500ha of coffee.

The latest victims in Malaysia were two brothers who drowned while fishing in flood waters in Kedah state, said police officer Shahidan Ladin.

More than 18 000 people are staying in relief camps in Kedah, Shahidan said, adding that the state airport remains flooded and many roads, including a major highway, are impassable.

Another 10 000 evacuees remain at relief centres in the nearby states of Perlis, Kelantan and Perak, although numbers are dropping as people returned home, the New Straits Times reported.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who visited flood victims in Perlis, said his government will asses the damage to decide on compensation for poor farmers who have lost their livelihoods, according to the report.

Peninsular Malaysia’s northern states usually suffer floods during the monsoon season between November and March, but the flooding in Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Kelantan and Terengganu states this year has been deemed the worst in 30 years.—Sapa-AP

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