Thu, May 25, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Over 100 feared dead after Thai floods

'PRELIMINARY ESTIMATE' Rescue teams were pulling bodies from the wreckage of villages after unseasonally early rains caused mudslides and floods in the north

AGENCIES , UTTARADIT, THAILAND

Relief teams yesterday pulled more corpses from receding floodwaters in northern Thailand, where officials fear about 100 people were killed in floods and mudslides.

"One hundred dead is our preliminary estimate, but we are still receiving reports of missing people," Suksan Wanaputi, acting governor of the hardest-hit province of Uttaradit, said.

Mudslides blocked roads to Lab Lae district, where many of the victims are believed to have been swept away by the flood-waters or buried in the mud after the mudslides in the mountainous region, he said.

Up to 2m of water still covered the streets in parts of the province, he added.

So far about 30 bodies had been pulled from the mud and water that covered roads and homes, while 77 people were reported missing and feared dead, the disaster management agency said.

"We think that the number of dead and missing are likely to rise," a disaster official said.

The nearby provinces of Nan, Phrae, Lampang and Sukhothai were also hit by the floods after unusually early monsoon rains drenched northern Thailand at the weekend.

Some 1,200 people have been evacuated, while more than 75,000 have suffered damage either to their homes or their farms, the disaster agency said.

At least 168 homes were destroyed in the floods, while 25 schools, temples or government buildings were damaged, it added.

Some 1,000 people who had been stranded at the Den Chai train station in Phrae Province were rescued late on Tuesday and brought to Bangkok, the State Railway of Thailand said.

trains suspended

But services on lines running north from Bangkok to the city of Chiang Mai were suspended for a second day, railways spokesman Month-skarn Srivilasa said.

"The floods have inundated the rail lines in the north and the water is still high. We have to wait until it recedes so we can repair the tracks," Monthskarn said.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra inspected relief efforts yesterday, touring one inundated school and flying over the flood-hit provinces by helicopter.

Before leaving Bangkok, he said he had authorized the military and police to send heavy equipment to help clear roads and vowed government aid for the flooded region.

Shinawatra blamed the high number of casualties on the lack of any warning system for flash flooding. Some advocates in Thailand have pushed for such systems, though they have not drawn substantial attention.

"The alarm system is insufficient. I will push for alarms to be installed more quickly in the extremely at-risk areas," Thaksin said.

Thaksin also blamed the flood devastation in part on illegal logging in the region, where rampant clear-cutting has left many hillsides barren.

"There is frequently illegal logging in that area and local officials have tried to solve the problem. We did manage to arrest a few people recently," he told reporters.

Thaksin made the trip just one day after he formally returned to office. Seven weeks ago, he stepped aside in the wake of street protests and a controversial election that has since been invalidated by the courts.

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