Tens of thousands of tourists have been forced to flee popular Thai resort islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao ahead of tropical storm Pabuk.
The storm is set to bring heavy rains, winds of up to 40mph and seven-metre waves marking the first tropical storm of its kind in nearly 30 years.
The islands which are extremely popular with holiday-makers have emptied out since Wednesday, with tourists packing onto ferries heading to southern Thai mainland.
Though no official evacuation order has been given, tourists have been quick to flee the islands.
“I think the islands are almost empty … between 30,000 to 50,000 have left since the New Year’s Eve countdown parties,” Krikkrai Songthanee, Koh Phangnan district chief, told AFP.
Flights to the islands have been cancelled as the country battened down its beachside resorts.
Bangkok Airways reportedly cancelled all flights to and from popular holiday destination Koh Samui, potentially stranding tourists. Media also reported that ferry services to and from the island were suspended.
“We expect waves as high as five or seven metres near the eye of the storm. Normally in the Gulf of Thailand there are only two metre high waves,” Phuwieng Prakammaintara, director general at the Thai Meteorological Department, told reporters.
“It’s difficult to predict the severity of the storm so people should comply with authorities’ recommendations.”
A Russian man drowned on Wednesday on Koh Samui after ignoring warnings not to go into the sea.
“A family of three went swimming but the strong current caught a 56-year-old man who drowned,” police captain Boonnam Srinarat of Samui Police told AFP.
“Island officials announced the warning and put up the red ‘danger’ flags … but maybe the family did not think the situation was that serious.”