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The no-go zone in Khao Phanom where bodies could not be reached

Update: Phuket Skies Clear as Krabi Counts Disaster Cost

Thursday, March 31, 2011
UPDATE

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was set today to visit the Moo 7 village where Phuketwan reporters interviewed survivors of the Krabi disaster.

Aftermath Photo Album Above

THE WEATHER above the Greater Phuket region is clearing after a week of devastating downpours that today left Krabi villagers counting the cost in lives of savage mountain mudslides and torrents of water.

Survivors told us of families being swept away and children who are now orphans.The body count remains at 13.

But emergency workers, including many volunteers from Phuket, expect the toll to mount as they clear debris from houses, cars and plantations that were washed downstream.

Forecasters say the monsoon depression that brought unprecedented high-season destruction to the Greater Phuket region is now dissipating over Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga.

Because the countryside around the Khao Phanom range is so difficult to access, it may be days before rescuers and officials can fully assess the scale of the natural disaster. Cell phones do not work, so accurate information is slow to emerge.

Phuket suffered minor flooding but coped compared to Samui, where thousands of tourists were stranded, and the south-central provinces near Nakkorn Si Thammarat, where 11 more have been killed in flooding.

Attention swung yesterday to Krabi, where the unprecedented tourist high season downpour triggered a killer deluge that forced officials to release water from at least one dam.

Local resident Rabeard Choosri, 54, of Moo 7 village said: ''I heard a noise like a helicopter coming closer, then felt the ground shaking. The water rushed down the hill, taking everything away.

''My son and his wife live higher up. They found his body today. His wife is missing. They have a six-year-old daughter, but she is missing, too.''

Khun Rabeard said that while standing on a bridge on Wednesday, she recognised the sheets on her son's bed as it was ripped downstream below her.

Khun Rabeard said the couple's two sons, aged four and 11, had both been rescued and were being treated in a local hospital.

At the hospital, Khun Rabeard's grandsons talked briefly about their experience. The 11-year-old said: ''When the water came, I was out playing with my brother in the rain. It swept the house away.

''I saw my sister. Then she vanished.''

Another villager, Bhumin Tongneam, said: ''My parents, my sister, my brother-in-law and their two kids have gone. I couldn't help them because the water came with such a rush.

''We can't find any trace of their house or the people who lived there. I just can't believe this has happened. It's such a beautiful place to live.''

We saw at least one set of foundations where a house had once stood beside a slow-flowing river. Residents from at least eight villages fled to higher ground, but today many are reported to be missing.

We went with emergency workers to Moo 7 and passed Moo 2.

At the temple at Tam Kobe, we found one body in a coffin and a second in a shroud alongside, because only one coffin could be found.

About 350 surviving residents from Moo 7 and 50 from Moo 2 were gathering there in the cold, hoping for provisions to come soon.

The population of Moo 7 is 220 families, about 500 adults and children. Apart from a handful in hospital, the whereabouts of the others are unknown.

With soldiers and other rescuers on the river bank nearby, we could see three bodies in the water, but with levels flowing high at the point where three streams came together, it was not possible to recover them without a boat.

The disaster unfolded in mountainous country inland from the coastal region of Krabi, which is popular with Thai and expat tourists at this time of year.
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