Tens of thousands of tourists have fled the Thai resort islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao as the country is bracing for potentially devastating Tropical Storm Pabuk which is set to bring heavy rains, wind and high seas of seven-metre (22-foot) waves, AFP has reported.
Weather authorities on Thursday January 3rd said the storm was moving west from the tip of Indonesia into the Gulf of Thailand with maximum winds of 65 kilometers per hour. Pabuk, Thailand's first tropical storm in the area outside of the monsoon season for around 30 years is poised to hit Koh Phangan and Koh Tao as well as Koh Samui on Friday night, before cutting into the mainland.
The islands, hugely popular with holiday-makers especially during the peak Christmas and New Year season, have emptied out since Wednesday as tourists packed onto ferries bound for the southern Thai mainland, with swimming banned and boats set to suspend services.
"I think the islands are almost empty. Around 30,000 to 50,000 have left since the New Year's Eve countdown parties," Krikkrai Songthanee, Koh Phangnan district chief, told AFP.