HM King sends aid; tourists help clean beaches after storm

Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn instructed the government to use money raised in a royally-sponsored national charity event in December to provide relief for victims of tropical storm Pabuk, which hit southern Thailand last week, as foreign tourists joined local volunteers in cleaning storm debris from beaches.

The Kingdom was on high alert during the first week of January as meteorologists warned that Pabuk could be the strongest typhoon to hit Thai shores since 1962. As the storm system approached the southern isthmus from the Gulf of Thailand, however, it lost some strength, and as it made landfall it was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Nonetheless, Pabuk was still the most powerful storm to hit Thailand in 30 years, and southern provinces endured an onslaught of torrential rains, waves as high as 15 feet, and severe flooding in some areas. Over 700,000 people in eight provinces were evacuated to safer locations further inland. The authorities aided tourists in temporarily leaving islands and coastal resorts including Phi Phi, Koh Samui, and Phuket.

In all, four people perished, and while no official figure has yet been released, officials said they believed the damage was in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars. Homes were destroyed, power outages reported, and other infrastructure damaged. Fishing boats were lost, capsized or sunk.

In response, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun directed the government to use funds raised in December’s royally initiated “Un Ai Rak” (Love and Warmth) national charity event to provide relief and rehabilitation to those affected by the tempest.

“His Majesty the King has told the government to use the revenue for the rehabilitation missions,” said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as he visited the hardest-hit villages in Nakhon Sri Thammarat province.

The King had sent relief kits and supplies to villagers immediately after the skies cleared. The Royal Family has a long history and tradition of providing aid and assistance to the Thai people in the aftermath of natural disasters.

The government was also meeting its responsibilities, with the Prime Minister on the ground assessing the damage and helping to guide relief efforts before the rebuilding can begin.

Among those pitching in during clean-up efforts were some foreign tourists.
Kornpachara Meedet, a resort operator at Lamai beach on the island of Koh Samui, said she had seen foreign tourists helping Thais with the beach clean up for two days. She said she saw about 30 foreign tourists of all ages picking up the trash and separating waste from seaweed.  “We are all very pleased to see that they want to help us so that we can return to running our businesses as soon as possible,” she said.