2 deaths in Thailand blamed on cold snap

Students wearing long sleeve clothings walk along a street in Bangkok, Thailand, January 25, 2016.
PHOTO: Reuters

The Public Health Ministry yesterday warned people to stay warm during the current cold spell affecting the upper half of the country - to protect themselves against flu and pneumonia, which have already killed five and affected about 8,000 others since early this year.

A 96-year-old woman was found dead in Prachin Buri province yesterday after the sudden plunge in temperature to 14-degrees Celsius. A 59-year-old woman also appeared to have died from the cold in Nakhon Ratchasima province.

Public Health Ministry spokesman Dr Suwannachai Wathanayingcha-roenchai yesterday advised people to keep small children, plus the elderly and those with chronic diseases warm, hydrated, and to maintain good hygiene, while avoiding areas that are excessively cold, polluted, or poorly ventilated. He said Thailand sees about 200,000 cases of influenza and pneumonia each year and they are more frequent in cold weather. These illnesses led to about 1,000 deaths annually. So far this year the Disease Control Department has reported 1,936 flu cases and 6,407 pneumonia cases with five related deaths.

National Institute for Emergency Medicine chief Anucha Setthasathien advised people to refrain from drinking alcohol as - contrary to common belief that it warms the body - it accelerates body heat generation, leading to a lower body temperature that could become fatal while sleeping in long exposure to a cold spell. He also urged people with a heart condition, stroke and paralysis to keep warm and continuously medicated.

Many tourists in Phu Thap Buek, in Phetchabun, fled home after the mercury dropped to zero degrees Celsius on Sunday night and only rose to 2C yesterday. Locals said this was the coldest weather this or last year.

Hill Tribal Development centre head Niparat Prapreut said 5,000 blankets were given to hilltribe people and the office had asked for 10,000 more.

Phetchabun's Khao Khor district reported its lowest temperature as 6C while Muang district was about 14C. Locals sat around bonfires complaining about the sudden cold, which prompting widespread fears of illness.

In Bangkok the temperature dropped to 17.5 degrees Celsius, and prompted many to wear thicker clothing. It was even colder in the North and Northeast.

In Phitsanulok's Muang district, people were excited to see frost in front of a history centre at Chan Palace after it rained yesterday morning, although it evaporated 30 minutes later. Provincial meteorological official Thada Sattha said the temperature there was just under 17C - a seven-degree drop from Sunday. But he said it should not have caused frost, so his office would look into that. At Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park's Phu Lom Lo, visitors continued to admire Wild Himalayan Cherry blossoms amid bitter cold - 5-degrees Celsius.

In the Northeast, Sakhon Nakhon reported a low of 8C - the province's coldest in 15 years, while Khon Kaen province cited 10-12 degrees Celsius. Wild monkeys Khao Yai National Park sought the 'warmth' of the local highway from 10C weather.