Thu, Dec 22, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Rain brings misery to Southeast Asia

FLOODING TOLL Scores of deaths have been reported across four countries as the region copes with damage to important agricultural zones and populated areas


Widespread flooding has crippled agricultural centers and killed dozens as heavy rains continue across Southeast Asia.

Nineteen people were killed in southern Thailand in the past week, raising to 35 the death toll in the region's worst floods in nearly 30 years, the Thai Interior Ministry said yesterday.

Relief agencies rushed food, clothes and blankets to nine provinces, including three bordering Malaysia, where more than 700,000 people have been affected, the ministry said.

In Malaysia, six people have died in Kelantan, the worst affected of four northern states hit by floods since Friday, the government said.

About 30,000 people were evacuated in the four states, but many have returned home as floodwaters receded in some areas.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was criticized for not touring the flooded deep south where his ruling Thai Rak Thai Party was trounced in general elections earlier this year.

"I follow the flood reports every two to three hours and have instructed relief officials to do their best. I will visit the provinces if necessary. But for now, I am sending out relief instructions by phone," he told reporters in Bangkok.

The flooding prompted former prime minister Chuan Leekpai, a member of the opposition Democrat Party, to delay a planned trip to Myanmar this week and fly to the embattled region.

The floods, brought by heavy seasonal tropical rains, have damaged 14 bridges, cut 463 roads and inundated 15,000 hectares of farmland, including vast stretches of rubber plantations, the Interior Ministry said.

Floods have also killed six more people in Vietnam's Central Highlands coffee belt, taking the death toll in the central region to 60 over the last 10 days, but officials said yesterday that the important coffee crop was not affected.

The six, two of them children, drowned as heavy rains triggered floods in the eastern and southeastern parts of Daklak Province, which are not key coffee growing areas, an official at Daklak's disaster management department said.

Irrigation projects suffered damage and more than 1,100 homes were inundated in the districts of Ea Kar, Krong Bong and Krong Ana.

A total of 54 people have died in floods that struck five central coastal provinces since early last week, 40 of them in the provinces of Khanh Hoa and Phu Yen near Daklak, the government's floods and storms committee said.

Meanwhile, the drowning death of a man in northern Malaysia brought that country's death toll in recent flooding to seven on Wednesday, while two people were missing and 30,000 put up in relief centers, reports said.

A 40-year-old fisherman in northeastern Kelantan state drowned when his boat overturned as he and two friends were rowing to their homes to salvage their belongings, the Star newspaper reported. Six other people have died in what has been described as the worst flooding in northern Malaysia in three decades.

A total of 29,180 people were evacuated in five states, the New Straits Times report said.

In the Philippines, three villagers drowned in flooding that has engulfed several central provinces after days of heavy rains, bringing the death toll to nine, the military said on Tuesday.

Despite improving weather, nearly 13,000 people remained in evacuation centers in the agricultural region, mostly in the hard-hit province of Oriental Mindoro, awaiting floodwaters to ease in their villages and farms, according to a statement from the military's Office of Civil Defense.

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