Tens of thousands of tourists have reportedly escaped popular resort islands in Thailand ahead of the first tropical storm to hit the country's southern shores in almost 30 years.
Thai authorities suspended ferry services and began evacuations on Thursday as the storm bears down during the country's peak tourism season.
Rain was already falling around the Gulf of Thailand and officials warned that torrential downpours, strong winds and rough seas were expected in 16 provinces when Pabuk makes landfall late on Friday.
There are fears that the storm will be the worst to hit Thailand since 1989, when Typhoon Gay left more than 400 dead.
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Thousands of people and tourists are evacuating Thailand's most popular islands in preparation of what could be one of the most devastating tropical storms to hit the country in decades.
Tropical Storm Pabuk is expected to hit Thailand around 7pm local time on Friday near Chumphon archipelago on the eastern border of Surat Thani and Nakhon Is Thammarat provinces. Heavy rainfall is anticipated to arrive in a few hours.
Several popular tourist sites are expected to affected: Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao, Phuket, and Koh Phi Phi to name a few.
"We are still compiling the number of evacuees. I can say several thousand people for over 16 provinces," Putthipong Punnakanta, a spokesman for the Thai government, told CNN.
"It is high season, there are many foreign tourists at popular destinations. We have informed them in advance since two days ago. I would say most of them have left islands and come to the mainland."
Over 55,000 tourists are fleeing Thailand's resorts as 22-foot waves are expected to hit the tropical country. It is expected to be one of the most devastating storms to hit Southeast Asia since 1962.
Several Thai networks are posting tips on how to survive and stay safe during Tropical Storm Pabuk.
There appears to be some video footage of heavy rainfall in Koh Samui.
You can follow the storm path here:
Tropical storm Pabuk was blowing winds up to 104km per hour, or 65 miles per hour, but it is unlikely that it'll acerbate into a full-blow typhoon, according to forecasters.
“But 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.”
In addition to Thailand, Tropical Storm will also impact the neighbouring countries of Myanmar and Malaysia.
Photos of tourists and people fleeing certain islands are circulating on Twitter
Evacuations are under way as Thailand prepares for Storm Pabuk to pound its southern beach resorts. Ferry services have been suspended in the region and evacuation centres have been set up in the areas expected to bear the brunt of the weather event.
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