Thailand is dealing with scorching temperatures and climate change challenges as the heatwave wreaks havoc. Infrastructure buckles fatalities rise while water rationing hits tourist hotspots. The kingdom has been taught a harsh lesson in adapting to global warming.

As Thailand swelters in the last dog days of its summer, nerves are frayed. On Thursday, a motorbike spontaneously caught fire in the centre of Chiang Rai. Similarly, two days before, workers in Nakhon Si Thammarat put ice on railway tracks, threatening to buckle on a mainline route. The scorching weather has seen fatalities from heatstroke and rationing of water in tourist provinces. In short, the government has been put on notice of another potential problem for its faltering economy. Climate change poses a challenge to continued foreign tourism expansion.

A TikTok video on Thursday went viral. It showed a motorbike exploding into flames in the heat and sunshine. The video was posted by a user in Chiang Rai. It comes with a growing range of problems associated with the heat, including heat stroke fatalities, a lack of water for tourist hotels and even buckled railway lines.

People living and holidaying in Thailand are longing for the current heatwave to come to an end over the coming week or two. Meteorologists are predicting the arrival of thunderstorms between the 10th and 14th of May.

It follows an unbearable warm summer in Thailand, with April being one of the hottest ever. Many Thais don’t remember anything quite like it.

In recent days, most areas of the kingdom have seen temperatures touching or even exceeding 40°C.

Police in Bangkok heroically fight to save the life of an elderly man found sprawled on a capital pavement. Meanwhile, the heat continues to disrupt

The hot weather has seen dozens of cases of fatal heatstroke, with Thai police at Khan Na Yao Police Station in Bangkok on Monday morning called upon to revive an elderly man. 

A 62-year-old was found on a Bangkok city centre street in an unresponsive state. After 30 minutes of CPR, his heart began beating again and he was taken to hospital.

Afterwards, staff at the Nopparat Hospital where he was taken, expressed concern for his condition.

Swiss tourist saved from the heat as a survey shows 72.6% of Thai people worry about hotter weather

Significantly, this week, shocked railway officials discovered that the steel rails were beginning to buckle from the heat.

At length, workers in southern Nakhon Si Thammarat were called in on Tuesday. Their task was to pour cold water and ice on the tracks of a main railway line.

Motorbike explodes in flames on a Chiang Rai street in traffic as driver frantically tries to cope. Luckily a helpful bystander brought a fire extinguisher

A shocking display of the danger posed by the dangerously hot temperatures was seen in Chiang Rai on Thursday.

A social media user on TikTok posted a video of a motorbike spontaneously erupting in flames as its driver drove through the city.

The panicked driver frantically walked around his motorbike engulfed in flames until a quick-thinking bystander intervened.

He brought him a fire extinguisher. The flames were extinguished immediately, and an explosion averted.

The incident garnered reactions on the Chinese social media site TikTok.

One knowledgeable commentator suggested that the carburettor had been clogged with oil. He suggested the motorbike’s ignition had produced a spark, which ignited in the extremely hot weather.

Certainly, the kingdom has also witnessed several huge conflagrations centred on chemical and recycling factories.

However, in at least one of these incidents, arson is suspected as Thailand is also simultaneously dealing with a pollution waste crisis.

Thailand undoubtedly is in the midst of a weather crisis

At this point, until the rains arrive, the public is being advised not to go out in the hot weather in the middle of the day.

Dr Seri Supharatit, a water expert, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Futuretales LAB, suggested on Tuesday that over the coming week or so, rains will be seen. He expects temperatures to fall back to 35-36°C. Crucially, it will be at least 3°C lower than April.

He attributed the heightened temperatures this year to climate change. At the same time, he noted that rainfall in 2024 will be lower in many regions.

Significantly, he indicated that the world had warmed by 1.58°C from February 2023 to March 2024.

‘Thailand must go back and look at itself. Lower the temperature. Design a green city like Singapore. At the same time, global society is putting pressure on each country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If Thailand continues going forward like this, it will cost more. Therefore, clean energy must be used. Because global warming is a big issue that must be resolved quickly. For every life on this planet,’ he explained.

He called for Thai authorities to begin planning green city environments on the same lines as Singapore.

Krabi is currently rationing water as a tourist boss in  Phuket lambasts the resort province’s  water system and demands urgent  government action to fix it

Meanwhile, the heatwave is being felt strongly in the South. The weather is hotter, and rainfall has been sparse.

The Provincial Waterworks Authority (PWA) has already begun rationing water in three provinces.

This includes Krabi, a top favourite with foreign tourists. Water is only available to the key tourism areas in the province at the end of the week, while non-tourist areas are given priority at the beginning of each seven days.

The situation in particular in Ko Phi Phi, off Krabi, is devastating. A private firm supplying water to the island ceased operations on April 23rd

The situation has led to an outcry from foreign tourists and hoteliers.

Similar concerns are being raised in Phuket. President of the Phuket Tourist Association Mr Thaneth Tantipiriyakij this week warned of lowering water levels.

Mr Thaneth said the Bang Wad reservoir in the tourist resort province was well below 20% of capacity, while the others, Klong Kata and Bang Neow Dum, were also running at the same worryingly low levels.

‘Phuket is the country’s prime tourist destination. We are supposed to have a better water supply system,’ he declared. Mr Thaneth clearly sees this as a failure of the government in Bangkok.

However, local water officials are reportedly preparing for any eventuality.

They are also taking heart from weather reports suggesting major downpours in the coming weeks. These, the meteorologists suggest, will be heavier than normal.

Concern also for children returning to school

On Thursday, also, a senior official with the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC) raised concerns about the danger faced by children returning to school.

Lieutenant Thanu Wongchinda, the Secretary-general, was particularly concerned about the heat in the northern and northeastern regions of Thailand.

He called for educators to prepare plans for the reopening of schools.

This should mean a ban on outdoor activities. In addition, he called for all electrical appliances to be tested. Fans and air conditioning systems must be in working order.

Thailand’s schools traditionally open at the beginning of May coinciding with the start of the school term.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Swiss tourist saved from the heat as survey shows 72.6% of Thai people worry about hotter weather

Climate change in Thailand – Thai farmers believe it is real but the impact is unclear as yields are steady

Jury still out on EV vehicles but with its back against the wall, Thailand is all in for the ride at high torque

Concerns raised about EV vehicles and batteries stored in Bangkok after intense Chatuchak fire

Thailand looking at new modular US nuclear reactors as a future sustainable power source

Thailand faces an economic test as change becomes a reality in cars, farming and business

Bus driver charged as police find fatal inferno was caused by brake failure triggering a gas explosion

Friday evening horror smash in southern Thailand wipes out family riding pillion on a motorbike