Dozens dead in Thai floods

The worst floods to hit parts of Thailand in decades have left 94 people dead, destroyed thousands of homes and caused misery for millions affected by the rising waters, officials said on Friday.

The floods have claimed 26 more lives, many from drowning, the Emergency Medical Institute of Thailand reported in its latest daily toll on the disaster, which began on October 10.

“Most of the victims died in their homes or were children playing near flood waters,” said Chatree Charoencheewakul, the head of the institute.

“It’s likely that the toll could rise further as the flooding is still severe,” he said. “After the floods end we have to teach Thai people to swim or at least be able to float.”

The authorities estimate that 4,2-million people have been affected, with homes submerged and farmland or cattle destroyed, mostly in central and eastern areas. Thailand’s main tourist areas have not been hit.

Flood and landslide warnings have been issued for mountainous areas in southern Thailand.

More than 1 100 schools have been inundated and their directors have been allowed to delay the start of the new term by one week, Education Minister Chinaworn Boonyakiat said.

More than 229 398 people have sought medical treatment since October 20, mostly for itchy skin, common colds and stress, the health ministry said.

Health minister Jurin Laksanawisit warned people to be more careful after the latest deaths, of which six were children.

“In some cases, death can be avoided, so don’t put yourself at risk and it will reduce fatalities,” he said.

The floods have spread to 38 of Thailand’s 76 provinces although the waters have receded in 11 of those, officials said.

About 1,6-million acres of farmland have been destroyed, according to the government.
Of the victims, 78 were men and 16 women.

Several people have reportedly committed suicide after their homes or paddy fields were badly damaged.

Nakhon Ratchasima, a large mountainous province about 250km north-east of Bangkok, is the worst affected with 18 deaths and almost 40cm of rain this month.

Nakhon Sawan, Lopburi and Ayutthaya, just north of the capital, have also been badly hit.

Bangkok has been on standby with thousands of sandbags and pumps as flood water from the north runs downstream and could coincide with high tide.

So far the capital has avoided major flooding, although more than 1 000 homes along the Chao Phraya have been partially submerged.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva reassured city residents that the authorities can cope and will not allow Bangkok to be flooded, according to the government’s website.

He has pledged to prevent water damage in the capital, noting that it is a key area for the Thai economy.—AFP

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