Two die as cold bites in Central region

Two die as cold bites in Central region

Schools light bonfires, army readies help

Cold weather gear has replaced uniforms at schools in the Bangkok area as temperatures go below 10C in many places. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Cold weather gear has replaced uniforms at schools in the Bangkok area as temperatures go below 10C in many places. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

The cold spell and sudden drop in temperatures throughout the country is thought to have led to the deaths of at least two elderly people in Chai Nat province, with forecasters predicting the cold is likely to spread.

Chamrat Yotphet, 72, and Samphan Phengkhan, 78, were found dead at their homes in the Central region province. Muang police investigator Patikon Hanhatthakit said Chamrat's husband found her dead with a blanket covering only her feet when he tried to wake her up Monday morning.

The temperature had fallen to 14 degrees centigrade around dawn. A doctor said later she might have died from the cold.

The sudden change in the weather since Sunday has caused a sharp drop in temperatures over most parts of Thailand and caught many people off guard. Tambon Chai Nat in Muang district, where Chamrat lived, was also hit by the cold spell. As the weather turned cold on Sunday night, Chamrat took a drink to keep herself warm and went to sleep, her husband Amnuai, 78, said. She did not wake up again.

Another elderly man, Samphan Phengkhan, 78, was found dead at home in tambon Ban Kluai, also of Muang district. His relatives suspect he died of the cold. Samphan also suffered from high-blood pressure and heart and kidney disorders, they said.

The mercury is close to 0C on this thermometer shown by well-wrapped resident of Phetchabun province.(Photo by Sunthorn Khongwarakhom)

The Meteorology Department warned Monday of a further drop in temperatures by one to three degrees Celsius in the next two days owing to a strong high pressure zone covering the South China Sea and upper Thailand.

Minimum temperatures in the North and Northeast are expected to range between 6-15C while the Central Plains and the East can expect 13-18 degrees. Bangkok residents and those in neighbouring provinces will continue to experience chilly weather as temperatures are expected to fall to 13-16C.

The fall in temperatures is prompting some creative measures to deal with the cold. Bonfires are a quick solution in Phayao, which is facing a mix of rainfall and low temperatures down to 7C in some areas, says provincial governor Supphachai Iamsuwan. Winter clothes were not enough for students at a childcare centre in Pong district, so teachers decided to make a bonfire inside a building to keep them warm.

Handlers at an elephant park in Surin's Tha Toom district light a fire to keep their animals warm. (Photo by Nopparat Kingkaew)

Military officers have been told to prepare rescue equipment to help needy people, said Col Sirichan Nga-thong, deputy spokesman of the National Council for Peace and Order. The NCPO will make sure the public, including motorists complaining of poor visibility in the bad weather, can continue their daily routines, she said.

Meanwhile, Sathon Vijarnwannaluk, a lecturer at the Department of Science, Chulalongkorn University, said something unusual might have happened with the Arctic Oscillation phenomenon, a non-seasonal sea-level pressure zone anomaly in the Arctic. It has discharged a more intense cold wave than usual, sending temperatures plummeting worldwide.

In the case of Thailand, the strong influence of the Arctic Oscillation has led to weather extremes in many provinces. He suggested people should not worry about the cold weather as it will not last long. The country will go back to being hot as it usually is in the middle of next month. "This might be the last time you feel cold this year. Please enjoy it and make yourself warm. Such things have happened in the country before," he said.

Wanchai Sakudomchai, Meteorological Department chief, said the cold has not yet reached the record set in Bangkok of 10C in 1975, and 11.7C in 1999.

One woman wraps a shawl around her face and other people waiting for a bus try to get warm near a shopping mall in Pathum Thani's Rangsit district on Monday. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

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