Thais told to brace for more severe weather

Tourists walk at the ruins of the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, Thailand.
PHOTO: Reuters

Thailand will face severe weather change this year - as winter will be longer, the rainy season will come late and the drought will continue to hit wide farming areas across the country, experts have forecast.

Water distribution experts, meanwhile, have warned of an upcoming conflict over the distribution. They said rice growing had exceeded the limited water-distribution level by 85 per cent and suggested water be used wisely in order to ease the situation.

For almost three months the drought has ravaged 71 districts in 14 provinces in the North, Northeast, East and Central region, resulting in those areas being declared natural disaster zones by the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department.

Weather crises and unusual weather patterns have been seen in many places in the world including other parts of this region. A massive blizzard claimed at least 16 lives in eastern United States.

The near-record snowstorm clobbered eastern United States on Friday and Saturday, shutting down New York and Washington and affecting some 85 million residents.

A cold snap gripped Hong Kong yesterday, with residents shivering as temperatures plunged to the lowest point in nearly 60 years and frost dusted the mountaintops of a city accustomed to a subtropical climate.

Hong Kong weather officials issued a frost warning, saying an "intense cold surge" was in place coupled with chilling monsoon winds.

China was heading for record low temperatures, meteorologists warned yesterday, as authorities renewed an orange alert for severe weather. In Beijing, temperatures were expected to hit a 30-year low of minus 16 degrees Celsius yesterday, the National Meteorological Centre said.

Temperatures in the southeastern provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong may drop below the lowest levels ever recorded, it said. The mercury also dramatically dropped in several parts of Thailand due to a high-pressure system hovering over the northeastern region.

The Meteorological Depart-ment yesterday warned people to beware of a significant temperature plunge.

"Due to the high pressure [system], weather conditions may include thundershowers and strong winds. A sharp cold spell will then follow reducing temperature by between six and 10 degrees Celsius," it said.

In Bangkok and nearby areas, the mercury could fall to between 16 and 18 degrees Celsius today after temperatures plunged yesterday.

In the northern and northeastern regions, minimum temperature may plunge to as low as eight degrees Celsius.

In Phetchabun province, the temperature at the Phu Tab Berk attraction dropped to 10 degrees to the delight of tourists. Locals who lacked warm clothes, however, may be at risk health wise.

"We have advised people to take care of their health in the face of falling temperatures," Klong Lan district chief Boontham Thongpichit said. His district is located in the northern province of Kamphaeng Phet.

He said in addition to wearing warm clothes, locals should make sure their pets and livestock can survive the cold spell and their houses could withstand strong winds.

"If you need help, please contact your village heads, kamnans or local administrative bodies," Boontham said.

In Surin province, a storm damaged at least eight houses. Local authorities promised to help them with the repairs.

In Nakhon Ratchasima, people were seen wearing not just warm clothes but also raincoats yesterday.

In another northeastern province, Nong Bua Lamphu, people in the Muang district said they did not get any morning sunlight.

"It's cloudy," a local said.

Without the sunlight, the weather proved so cold many people lit fires to warm.

Preecha Jinthanawat, who works at a northern weather bureau, said hot temperatures often preceded thunderstorms.

"Following thunderstorms, temperature will get lower," he said.

He said the northern region would experience cool weather until early March due to a westerly trough from Myanmar

A Northeast monsoon across the South and the Gulf of Thailand is expected to intensify with much more rain, as well as isolated heavy thundershowers.

Wind waves in the Gulf are expected to be up to four metres high. People have been warned to be on the lookout for high inshore surf.

All large ships have been told to proceed with caution, and small boats should not be taken out from now until Wednesday, officials said.