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Heavy rain floods provincial prison

Prachuap Khiri Khan's Muang district was under water yesterday after days of heavy downpours, while motorists had to exercise extreme caution when driving on sections of Petchkasem Highway.

The provincial prison is among the buildings that have been hit since Thursday night. Officials rushed to erect a one-metre-high barrier of sandbags at the entrance and turned to water pumps to drain the building.

The 200 prisoners had not been evacuated as of yesterday evening.

Muang resident Sommai Sukjinda, 45, said his housing estate on Prachup Siri Road had been hit by floodwater at 3am yesterday. The water rose to 90-120 centimetres deep, damaging property and belongings.

Local officials dispatched flat-bottomed boats to help some 600 flood-hit residents in the New Niwet Housing Estate, Bot Christ Community and Ban Khai Community on Prachup Siri Road, said deputy mayor Sutthichai Ketraksa. However, if the rain stopped, things should be back to normal by the day's end, he said.

Prachuap Khiri Khan Governor Prasong Phithunkitcha said the downpours had deposited about 100 millimetres a day of rain on about 70 per cent of the province. Reservoirs are at 70-per-cent capacity.

Disaster-prevention officials are closely monitoring Bang Saphan and Bang Saphan Noi because the two districts lack reservoirs to hold rainwater, Prasong said.

"The rain has been heavy, causing several sections of Petchkasem Highway to be flooded. Motorists must take extra care while on the road," he added.

Seven districts in the province - but not Sam Roi Yod sub-district - have been designated disaster zones because of extensive property damage. Such a designation allows funds to be allocated for rebuilding and for assisting affected residents, Prasong said.

In Hua Hin, rainfall covered 80 per cent of the district and 162 millimetres had fallen from Thursday to yesterday morning, said Hua Hin weather bureau chief Sutheep Kaewsornchai.

Hua Hin district chief Prasit Boonlikhit insisted the bad weather would not hit tourism as tourist attractions were not affected.

Meanwhile, Interior Ministry permanent secretary Pongpayom Vasaphuti remains positive that the situation in Prachuap Khiri Khan's Hua Hin district - which was earlier declared a disaster zone - is under control and that the provincial administration organisation can deal with the heavy rainfall.

The ministry is prepared for a tropical storm hitting Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumpon and Phetchaburi, Pongpayom said, adding that provincial governors can get assistance from national agencies and the armed forces at all times.

Deputy Public Health Minister Morakot Kornkasem said flooding in Prachuap Khiri Khan "was not worrisome", as the water had started to recede and public health offices and hospitals were not affected.

Hua Hin was under 70cm of water but the flood levels are dropping and Hua Hin Hospital staff are ready for emergencies around the clock, he said.

For the flood-prone Bang Saphan Hospital, officials are ready to evacuate patients to nearby hospitals if necessary, Morakot added.

Mineral Resources Department director-general Apichai Chawacharoenphan warned of possible landslides and floods in the North and West. People living in landslide-prone areas in Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Tak, Kamphaeng Phet, Kanchanaburi and adjacent provinces should be cautious, he said.

Meanwhile, the Meteorological Department said a tropical depression in the Andaman Sea was yesterday about 700 kilometres west of Tak. With winds up to 55 kilometres an hour, it was moving north-northwest and will hit the coast of Burma today.

Rain is expected to continue, with isolated heavy to very heavy rainfall in provinces along the western border, as well as some central and upper-southern provinces.

Residents of Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai, Tak, Sukhothai, Kamphaeng Phet, Nakhon Sawan, Uthai Thani, Suphan Buri, Kanchanaburi, Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Chumphon should be prepared for flash-floods this weekend, while high waves are expected to continue in the Andaman Sea for the next few days.

In related news, an earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale occurred 35km beneath Indonesia's Kepuluang Talaud at 3.52am yesterday, but no damage was immediately reported. Nation.

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