Pattaya Daily News

17 October 2011 :: 09:10:49 am 59141

Thai capital’s barriers hold but floods still menace

BANGKOK, October 16, 2011- Flood defences shielding the Thai capital held up on Sunday as officials expressed confidence that the city of 12 million people would escape severe inundation in a disaster that has claimed 300 lives.
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Thailand’s worst floods in decades have swamped huge swathes of the kingdom, swallowing homes and businesses, shutting down industry, and forcing tens of thousands of people to seek refuge in shelters.

Authorities are battling to protect the capital which is ringed by defensive walls that have so far largely prevented major flooding. But their efforts have left areas outside the city to bear the brunt of the deluge.

Agriculture minister Theera Wongsamut said there were “good signs” that the situation would improve and water levels in provinces north of the capital were “likely to decrease” as water drains towards the sea.

“A large amount of water from the north flowed past Bangkok to the Gulf of Thailand yesterday,” he said.

He added that water levels would be “stable” from now on, easing fears over a seasonal high tide that could worsen the situation in the next few days by making it harder for water to flow out to sea.

The next high tide period will be between October 28 and 30, officials said.

Three months of heavy monsoon rains have deluged parts of central and northern Thailand causing floods — several metres deep in places — affecting about one third of Thailand’s provinces and leaving at least 297 people dead.

From the edge of the capital a vast flood plain stretches north for some 200 kilometres (124 miles), with the ancient city of Ayutthaya and surrounding areas in the centre of the waterlogged region.

An AFP photographer travelling in a Thai army relief helicopter said the only land visible in some areas are overpasses packed with vehicles and people desperate to reach higher ground.

“It was a sea, with only tree tops and the roofs of houses visible above the water,” he said.

People have swapped their cars for boats and improvised rafts and locals in one isolated village swam from their homes to collect air-dropped rations.

Ten United States Marines were in the country to assess what humanitarian assistance could be provided, the US embassy said.

Sandbags have been piled alongside waterways and authorities have been dredging and draining canals to allow more water to flow through and are diverting the over flow to waterways outside the main city.

Conditions in Bangkok remain mostly normal and Suvarnabhumi Airport — the capital’s main air hub which has floodwalls several metres high — was operating as usual.

As heavy rains continue, homes and businesses in inner Bangkok have been fortified with sandbags in preparation for possible inundation, and many residents have stocked up on food, water and flashlights.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called for unity in the face of the crisis on Sunday morning as authorities tried to speed the water flow towards the sea by lining up around a thousand boats with engines running on the Chao Phraya, Bang Pa Kong and Tha Chin rivers.

Yingluck, speaking from the banks of the Chao Phraya in Nonthaburi province, north of Bangkok, said the boats’ propellers would move only a relatively small amount of water but that the measure was still “worthwhile and efficient”.

The floods have dealt a heavy blow to Thailand’s economy, disrupting production of cars, electronics and other goods.

Japanese automakers including Toyota have suspended production in the kingdom due to water damage to facilities or a shortage of components.

A series of industrial estates have been waterlogged in Ayutthaya, swamping scores of factories.

Reporter : AFP   Photo : AFP   Category : Thailand News

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