NAKHON SI THAMMARAT, Thailand — Thai authorities suspended ferry services and began evacuations Thursday ahead of a powerful tropical storm that is expected to pound the Southeast Asian nation’s famed southern beach resorts during a peak tourism season.

Rain was already falling around the Gulf of Thailand and officials warned that torrential downpours, strong winds and rough seas were expected in 16 provinces when Tropical Storm Pabuk makes its expected landfall late on Friday.

There are fears that the storm will be the worst to hit Thailand since 1989, when Typhoon Gay left more than 400 dead. A tropical storm in 1962 killed more than 900 people in the south.

In an incident possibly related to the storm, a Russian tourist in Koh Samui died Wednesday as he tried to rescue his daughter, who was struggling in strong surf. Thai PBS television reported that the daughter survived but her father lost consciousness after being tossed against some rocks and couldn’t be revived by rescuers.

Thailand’s Meteorological Department said the storm will lash southern Thailand’s east coast from Thursday to Saturday, with the two provinces of Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat expected to be hardest hit. Surat Thani is home to the popular tourist islands of Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan.

Army trucks were driving around remote seaside areas in Nakhon Si Thammarat on Thursday evening, searching for stragglers who had not yet been evacuated.

“We have prepared three shelters and currently have about 1,000 people in them,” said local official Kriangsak Raksrithong.

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