- - Thursday, October 6, 2011

BANGKOK — Two months of typhoons and heavy monsoon rain have flooded Southeast Asia, killing nearly 500 people and forcing thousands - including prison inmates and hospital patients - to flee. Fresh storms drenched the region Thursday.

“Meteorologists have indicated that flooding in some of these countries is the worst in 50 years,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said Wednesday, referring to devastation in Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam.

Back-to-back storms born in the South Pacific have rolled their way westward, first hitting the Philippines, then slamming into Vietnam’s long, S-shaped coastline. Some storms have pushed farther west to flood Cambodia before soaking northern Thailand.

Meanwhile, a separate batch of powerful rainstorms during the past six weeks have emerged from the Bay of Bengal, whipping northeast to punish Thailand on a second saturated front.

Death and destruction has been widespread.

In Thailand

Since July 25, floods have killed at least 244 people in north, northeast and central areas, making Thailand the the worst-hit country in Southeast Asia. Large areas were underwater Thursday.

About 600 convicts in Ayutthaya Central Prison were evacuated to other jails to escape incoming water Thursday, while another 900 inmates prepared for transport.

At least 16 patients in Ayutthaya province’s Bangahan Hospital were bundled onto small boats late Wednesday for treatment elsewhere after the medical facility was forced to shut because of 3-foot-high water.

Several dams and dikes in the deforested northern region recently began overflowing, causing flash floods to wreck nearby towns, villages and farms.

Tropical Storm Nalgae was expected to cross Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia during the next few days and drop more rain on Thailand, where more than 2 million people are struggling to survive.

Swirling water damaged about 2.5 million acres of rice plantations, in addition to other crops, and disrupted transportation on roads, railway lines and at some small airports.

In Cambodia

Repeat rainstorms caused two main rivers to overflow, flooding 14 of the country’s 24 provinces, UNOCHA reported.

“More than 177,000 families have been affected, 17,300 families evacuated, and 150 are dead,” it said.

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