Friday, October 14, 2011

Flood news Thai PM moves to soothe Bangkok flood panic

Unusually heavy monsoon rains have killed at least 289 people in Thailand (AFP, Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)
About 110,000 people around Thailand have sought refuge in shelters (AFP, Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)
Friday, October 14, 2011AFP

BANGKOK — Thailand's premier moved Friday to reassure Bangkok's 12 million residents over a looming flood crisis, after one of her ministers briefly sparked panic with an evacuation warning.

Science minister Plodprasop Suraswadi rushed out of a flood briefing late Thursday to say that several areas in Bangkok's northern suburbs were at risk of being submerged by up to one meter (3.3 feet) of water after a dyke burst.

But the authorities quickly backtracked, causing confusion among residents who have been braced for floodwaters to reach the capital after causing havoc across northern and central Thailand.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Friday that the situation was under control.

"The water level is stable and not increasing. So I would like to ask people not to panic," she told reporters.

"Minister Prodprasob wanted to update the people about the situation because he was concerned that they were anxious about it," Yingluck explained.

"So he just reported about the possibility of what might happen to the people, and nothing happened. Everything was normal."

Unusually heavy monsoon rains have killed at least 289 people, destroyed crops, inundated hundreds of factories and damaged the homes and livelihoods of millions of people in Thailand, according to the government.

About 110,000 people around the country have sought refuge in shelters.

Currently 26 out of 77 provinces are affected, but conditions in inner Bangkok and at most of Thailand's top tourist destinations are normal.

The capital is, however, bracing for a large amount of run-off water to reach the city along with seasonal high tides that will make it harder for the flood waters to flow out to sea.

Bangkok residents have thronged supermarkets in the capital to stock up on instant noodles and other non-perishable food, while flashlights have been flying off the shelves.

Sandbags have been piled in front of homes and businesses in preparation for possible inundation, while some residents have opted to leave their vehicles in multi-storey carparks in the city to avoid possible flooding.

Central Bangkok is protected by flood walls and the authorities have piled sandbags along the Chao Phraya River to try to keep water out of nearby areas, whose residents are no strangers to seasonal floods.

The authorities have said they will dredge and drain canals in the capital to allow more water to flow through.

The floods have dealt a heavy blow to Thailand's economy, leaving hundreds of factories under water.

Japanese automakers including Toyota have suspended production in the kingdom due to water damage to facilities or disruption to parts supplies.

The ancient city of Ayutthaya, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) upriver of Bangkok, has been badly affected and the UN cultural organisation UNESCO said it would launch a mission to the World Heritage site to assess the impact.


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