A group of Hartlepool men have told how their dream trip abroad has turned into a “holiday from hell” after they were caught up in a tropical storm in Thailand.
Reuben Bird and seven of his friends arrived at the popular destination on Boxing Day for a three-week break.
But the holiday of a lifetime has turned into a nightmare after tropical storm Pabuk struck, which forecasters have warned could impact upon popular destinations such as Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
The storm brought five-metre high waves and winds of up to 46mph in southern areas of the south-east Asian country.
One person was reported dead and another missing after a fishing boat with a crew of six capsized in high waves.
Forecasters there have also warned of possible flash flooding in certain areas caused by “forest runoffs” from the rain.
UK tourists are being warned to avoid southern parts of Thailand as a tropical storm makes landfall with the Southeast Asian country.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued advice to British tourists, warning against all but essential travel to parts of the popular holiday destination.
The Mail has also told of the ordeal endured by Hartlepool couple Katie Preston, 23, and her partner Liam Bland, 29, who also went to Thailand on Boxing Day and were left stranded on an island which was threatened by the storm.
Mr Bird, 23, is the owner of Syd’s Tyres in Hartlepool and has been away with electrical engineers Connor Reed, 23, Connor Simpson, 23, Otis Zielinski, 22, Adam Morgan, 24, Jack Taylor, 23 and mechanical fitters Adam Constantine 22 and Luke Powell, 24.
Mr Bird told the Mail how the group’s plans have had to be changed, with one their hostel rooms flooded due to torrential rain.
He added that there are no ferries or flights until Sunday so he and his friends have to buy extra nights to stay before they can get back home.
In an update today, he said the group were “doing fine” and had settled in Phuket, where they are expected to stay for a week before moving to Pattaya, a city on the eastern Gulf coast,
He said: “The disaster started two days ago in Koh Phangan.
“After breaking the new year in with a bang at the famous Full Moon party, we got told the next day a storm was heading but it was going to miss Koh Phangan and not to worry.
“We took this advice until the 3rd when it started torrential raining, flooding our hostel room in the process.
“We then got moved to another hotel a bit higher for one night until we had to re-pack our cases again and evacuate the island to luckily catch the last ferry as there were rumours going round it’s the worst storm in almost 60 years.
“After a bumping ferry ride getting soaking wet, we got to Koh Samui and paid for a one night stay until we could get a ferry to Phi Phi Islands which was meant to be our destination.
“We got told Koh Samui is safe but then got stuck on this island as well, as the storm came over even worse.
“The sea was crashing onto the land closing all bars of and flooding land next to the beach.
“We even got interviewed by a camera crew that were going to the beach filming the sea asking us if we feel safe and what we have been advised to do.”
Yesterday he said: “There are no ferries or flights until the 6th so we had to buy extra nights.
“This made us miss the hotel we pre-booked in Phi Phi Island and today we caught the first ferry that was put on to the mainland and now we have travelled to Phucket.
“Phucket is going to be really busy due to Phi Phi and Krabi have been evacuated to there.
“So all in the space of around five days we have been visiting waterfalls and temples, high on life and partying, to a holiday from hell.”
In a statement it said: “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to areas within the provinces on the Thai-Malaysia border, including: Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Southern Songkhla province.
“Our advice against all but essential travel does not include areas north of and including the A43 road between Hat Yai and Sakom, and areas north-west of and including the train line which runs between Hat Yai and Pedang Besar.
“Tropical Storm Pabuk made landfall on the southern coast of Thailand at 12:45 local time on 4 January 2019.
“This is affecting boat sailings and flights in affected areas, which may include Surat Thani (Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao), Chumporn, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Phuket, Krabi, Trang, Ranong, Phang Nga, Satun and Song Khla, as well as Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat.
“You should check your travel plans with transport providers before leaving your hotel or home, follow instructions from local authorities and monitor weather warnings from the Thai Meteorological Department.
“You can also find advice on our Tropical Cyclones page.
If you need to contact local emergency services, call 1155 (tourist police) or 1669 (emergency medical services).
“Consular support is not available in the parts of Thailand where we advise against all but essential travel.”