Storm Pabuk: Tourists flee Thai islands after weather warnings

Thousands of tourists and residents have reportedly fled islands off Thailand’s south-east coast to escape an approaching tropical storm.

Authorities have also been preparing shelters for those deciding to stay put.

Thailand’s Met Office says Tropical Storm Pabuk will bring strong winds and 7 metre (22 ft) waves but it is unlikely to become a typhoon.

A weather warning has been issued but no evacuation order is in place.

The storm is expected hit the country’s southern coast from Thursday, causing heavy rainfall and possible flash flooding.

Thailand’s Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said the military was on alert to assist people affected.

Among those areas in the path of the storm is Surat Thani, home to the popular tourist islands of Koh Phangnan, Koh Samui and Koh Tao.

Visitor numbers to the islands usually peak over the Christmas and New Year period.

“I think the islands are almost empty,” Krikkrai Songthanee, Koh Phangnan’s district chief, told AFP.

Images are circulating on social media of tourists and residents leaving various islands by boat for the Thai mainland.

However, bans on boats have been enforced in several areas including Kho Phi Phi because of safety concerns. As a result, many tourists have been forced to stay put.

Swimming has also been banned in Koh Samui.

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