Army grounds aircraft in stormy south

Army grounds aircraft in stormy south

Monsoon storms continue to deluge far South

The southern army grounded its helicopters and other aircraft for three days on Monday as Monsoon storms continue to batter the area.

Fourth Army Region commander Lt Gen Prakarn Cholayuth ordered the ban on flying for all types of aircraft from Monday to Wednesday because of the continuing violent weather in the region, Col Pramote Promin, spokesman for the Internal Security Commands Operation Centre said.

Soldiers were ordered to use ground vehicles to patrol flooded areas, he added.

The grounding order follows the crash of a Bell helicopter in Muang district of Yala on Sunday during heavy rain while monitoring the flooding. Four soldiers were injured, including the pilot and  co-pilot.

It was the second recent accident involving an army helicopter, following the fatal crash of another Bell in Phayao province in November, in which nine people including Maj Gen Songphol Thongjeen, deputy 3rd Army Region commander, died.

The accident in Yala involved a Bell 206 helicopter and the Phayao crash a Bell 212.

Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat are experiencing the worst monsoon floods in two decades, according to local people.

All 13 districts in Narathiwat, six districts in Yala and eight districts in Pattani have been declared disaster areas. Torrential rain has pounded the three provinces and other parts of the southern region for more than a week. The hardest hit areas are Tak Bai and Sungai Kolok districts in Narathiwat, where the runoff-swollen Kolok River has overflowed its banks.

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