(AFP) – Nov 2, 2010
BANGKOK — Thai troops scrambled to reach thousands of people stranded after flash floods swept through a major southern city, as the government expressed optimism it could reach all those trapped.
"The flood water is beginning to recede and relief supplies have arrived so officials will be able to distribute them in various flood-hit areas," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva AFP.
"It's likely that today, because the waters are receding, we can reach all the stranded people," said Abhisit, who paid a brief visit to the area on Tuesday.
Rising waters began to inundate Hat Yai, a city of more than 150,000 in Songkhla province, late Monday after days of heavy downpours, affecting tens of thousands of people, possibly including foreign tourists.
The area is particularly popular with people from Malaysia and Singapore.
"Many thousands of troops including from the army, navy and air forces have been dispatched with 10,000 ready meals," said Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon.
Heavy flooding has already killed at least 107 people around the country since October 10 in what Abhisit has described as "a huge natural calamity".
The authorities estimate that about six million people across Thailand have been affected by the disaster over the past three weeks, with homes submerged and farmland or cattle destroyed.
Flights to and from the popular tourist island of Samui were disrupted again Wednesday because of bad weather conditions, the airport operator said.
The government has sent two naval ships to the southern region to provide medical and logistical support for the relief operation.
The water has receded in Hat Yai's suburbs but in the city centre it is still more than two metres deep, said Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Thanatip Sawangsaeng.
He said between 5,000 and 6,000 more troops would join the rescue operation Wednesday, in addition to the 3,000 already in place.
The floods have affected dozens of provinces around the country, although the waters have receded in some areas.
Bangkok has been on standby but has so far avoided major flooding.
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