BANGKOK, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- Heavy downpours continued to lash provinces in southern Thailand and were forecast to last until Tuesday, Director General of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Chatchai Promlert said Monday.

The torrential rains and flooding in southern Thailand have claimed 21 lives, ruined over 200 roads and 59 bridges and devastated more than 330,000 houses which had been dwelled by about 960,000 villagers since Jan. 1, Chatchai said.

Currently affected provinces are either on the coasts of the Gulf of Thailand or on the shores of the Andaman Sea, including Thailand's world-famous tourist spots of Phuket and Krabi, according to the department chief.

The authorities, including the navy and Chatchai's department, have scrambled to evacuate flood victims to high terrains and hand out relief items.

Huge water pumps have been installed in inundated waterways to carry excessive water out to the sea while naval boats and helicopters were used in the evacuation of stranded villagers.

The Meteorological Department forecast that two- to three-meter-high tides will remain in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea until Tuesday and cautioned that small vessels keep out of the sea at the moment.

No tourists to Koh Samui island in the Gulf of Thailand were allowed to swim in the sea in the face of the rising tides.