Navy steps in to rescue British tourists stuck in Thailand floods

Ruth Doherty

Eight hundred tourists, many of them British, have been rescued by the Thai navy after disastrous flooding hit a number of popular Thai holiday islands.

They were left stranded after a week of torrential rain in which at least 15 people died.

Many holidaymakers trying to get home have expressed anger at the lack of information or advice following the disaster.

During what should be one of the hottest and driest months in southern Thailand, mudslides and floodwaters hit eight provinces. Popular destinations for Brits, such as Krabi, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, have all been affected, and ten people are still missing in the Krabi area.

Many British tourists say they have had no support or information from their tour operators.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, holidaymaker Lauren Allington, 23, travelling with her boyfriend, James Marshall, said: 'We haven't even had a phone call from our tour operator to tell us what's going on.'

This lack of information was the main complaint among stranded tourists. Michael Hancock, Bangkok's British Embassy Consul who arrived on the island on Wednesday night, said they were trying to improve communication between the airport and passengers.

'The (display) screens are not working and airline staff are only holding up signs written in Biro,' he said. 'They need a thick marker pen for a start.'

The British Embassy had set up a stand inside the airport strewn in Union Jack flags and manned by six staff from Bangkok.

Most people were only seeking advice or reassurances but Hancock said they had managed to find seats for a few desperate passengers, one with septic mosquito bites who needed hospital treatment and one family with a severely handicapped son running out of medication.

Efforts to reach trapped visitors did seem to be making headway today as flights to Koh Samui returned to normal and the country's only aircraft carrier, Chakri Naruebet, joined the rescue effort.

The navy said more frigates are expected to collect tourists from isolated islands in the Gulf of Thailand during the day.

Bangkok Airways said flights to Koh Samui were operating normally and predicted it would clear the backlog of stranded passengers on Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said ferries to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan had also resumed.

He told theaustralian: 'For small islands like Koh Tao the naval response was critical.

'Thousands of tourists were stuck there and there was not enough food and water, so we had to help them first.'

The Foreign Office is still advising against all but essential travel to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

There is also a continued risk of flash flooding and mudslides in many areas.

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