US issues warning on travel to flood-hit Thailand

WASHINGTON, Oct 27, 2011 (AFP) - The United States on Thursday issued a warning to its nationals to avoid all but essential travel to parts of Thailand hit by floods, but pointed out that many tourist hotspots were unaffected.

Thousands of Bangkok residents fled the capital on Thursday ahead of a mass of approaching floodwater. The city's metropolitan area and 20 provinces are affected by the extensive flooding, the State Department said.

"The US Department of State recommends against all but essential travel to these areas of Thailand," it said in a statement.

"Severe flooding has hampered transportation and limited access to some essential services in the affected regions."

The State Department however said that Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport -- the country's main air hub -- was still operating normally, and that "most tourist destinations, such as Phuket and Chiang Mai, are unaffected."

It urged US nationals living or taking vacations in affected areas to follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media for information about the floods.

Much of Thailand has already been ravaged by the three-month flood crisis caused by unusually heavy monsoon rains, which has left more than 370 people dead and millions of homes and livelihoods damaged.

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