Nervous Bangkok on alert for Thai flood devastation

Thailand fought to hold back floodwaters flowing towards Bangkok on Saturday as a spring tide hindered efforts to protect the city of 12-million people from the kingdom’s worst inundation in decades.

The authorities appeared to be winning the battle, with no reports of major flooding in inner Bangkok, which is ringed by flood walls, leaving areas outside the main city to bear the brunt of the rising waters.

“We must try to protect our economic zone including Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi Airport, industrial areas and evacuation centres,” said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Sandbags have been piled alongside rivers and canals and the authorities have been racing to repair a dyke that burst on Thursday, causing a brief scare in suburbs in the north of the capital.

The floods, several metres deep in places, are currently affecting about one third of Thailand’s provinces and have damaged the homes or livelihoods of millions of people and left at least 297 people dead.

About 110 000 people around the country have sought refuge in shelters in the face of waters that have destroyed crops and inundated hundreds of factories in industrial parks north of Bangkok.

“People have been affected by floods for three months now. The government understands that and is trying to drain the water as soon as possible,” Yingluck said.

“This incident is one of Thailand’s biggest and most severe losses in history. The government will not forget the people’s grievances.”

Positive news
Yingluck said foreign governments including China, Japan and the United States were giving financial or logistical support for the relief operations.

Conditions in inner Bangkok and at most of Thailand’s top tourist destinations are mostly normal and Suvarnabhumi Airport — the capital’s main international gateway, which has flood walls several metres high — is operating as usual.

This weekend Bangkok is bracing for a large amount of run-off water along with seasonal high tides that will make it harder for the flood waters to flow out to sea.

“We predict the water will be highest from October 16 to 18 as the high sea level combines with water from the north which will arrive in Bangkok tomorrow [Sunday],” said Worapat Tianprasit at the Royal Irrigation Department.

He said the water in the Chao Phraya River had risen to 2.27m above sea level on Saturday morning at high tide, which was lower than expected.

“If the tide does not exceed 2.5m, there won’t be flooding,” Worapat added.

Bangkok won’t be affected
Overnight thunderstorms caused some minor flooding on roads in the centre of the capital, but the authorities have said they are confident they can prevent serious inundation in the low-lying city.

“Bangkok will definitely not be affected by floods,” Justice Minister Pracha Promnog, who heads the government’s flood relief centre, said on Friday.

Sandbags have been piled in front of homes and businesses in preparation for possible inundation, and some residents have chosen to their vehicles in multi-storey carparks while stocking up on food, water and flashlights.

The authorities have been dredging and draining canals to allow more water to flow through and are diverting water to areas outside the main city.

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.

Three workers at a flood-hit factory north of the capital suffered minor injuries that were believed to be caused by a short circuit. — AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

The coronavirus is a disease of Chinese autocracy

An outbreak of a new coronavirus that began in the Chinese city of Wuhan has already infected over 4000 people –...

China moves Olympic qualifiers from the coronavirus epicentre

ALL OUR CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE Boxing and women’s football qualifying for the 2020 Olympics will be moved from the...

Miracle of ‘Wild Boars’ rescue transforms Thai cave into tourist draw

For a few dollars tourists can get framed photos at the site, pick up posters of the footballers and take home a souvenir t-shirt

Trawling the streets of Asia for food

A docu-series highlights the importance of nutritious and delicious meals provided by pavement vendors

Hundreds of schools to shut as toxic smog chokes Bangkok

The Thai capital has been shrouded in murky haze for weeks, sparking social media criticism of the uneven response by the government

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Fees free fall, independent schools close

Parents have lost their jobs or had salaries cut; without state help the schools just can’t survive

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday