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Bangkok floods could go into next year: Thai PM
by Staff Writers
Bangkok (AFP) Nov 15, 2011

Parts of Bangkok could still be flooded next year, Thailand's prime minister said on Tuesday, despite waters receding significantly in some areas of the city after weeks of inundation.

Thailand's worst floods in half a century, caused by months of unusually heavy monsoon rains, have left at least 562 people dead and damaged millions of homes and livelihoods around the country.

In an effort to spare Bangkok's economic and political heartland, authorities have been trying to drain the floods through waterways in the east and west of the sprawling capital of 12 million people, and out to sea.

But while Bangkok's centre has remained dry, it could be a number of weeks before the entire capital is free from the floodwaters, according to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

"Personally I want to see people happy in the new year, but I am not confident about western areas, where it is difficult to drain water," she told reporters, when asked whether the floods would go on into 2012.

She said that eastern areas were likely to be dry before the new year.

"The general situation is stable as floodwaters drain into the sea, but how quickly it drains depends on the contours of each area," Yingluck added.

On Monday, angry residents in the city's flooded west protested by briefly blocking a major highway, as frustration mounted that parts of the Thai capital are suffering badly while the centre stays dry.

Around 70 people also gathered at a major floodwall in northern Don Mueang district, watched by about 30 police officers, to stop authorities repairing a gap they had opened to allow water to drain away from badly flooded areas.

A spokesman for the Flood Relief Operations Centre (FROC), the government agency charged with dealing with the floods, said a compromise had been struck to partially repair the eight-metre (26-foot) breach.

Yingluck, who only came to power in August and has come under intense pressure over her management of the flood crisis, insisted again on Tuesday that she had worked "with good intention and to the best of her ability".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, due to visit the flood-hit kingdom on Wednesday, will offer a "very substantial" aid package to Thailand, the State Department has said.

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Thai lawmakers submit motion on moving capital
Bangkok (AFP) Nov 15, 2011 - Lawmakers from Thailand's ruling political party submitted a parliamentary motion on Tuesday to begin discussions over possibly shifting the capital city to prevent future flooding chaos.

Experts have said Bangkok, which is built on swampland, is slowly sinking and the floods currently besieging the city of 12 million people could be merely a foretaste of a grim future, as climate change makes its impact felt.

Sataporn Maneerat, a Puea Thai party MP, told AFP that Thailand should think about looking to another city for future developments and investments.

"Another 19 Puea Thai MPs and I have signed and submitted a motion to parliament to seek approval to set up a committee, to consider whether the capital should be moved or if Thailand should have a second capital," he said.

"Bangkok is sinking every year. The capital will face more and more problems from natural disasters and the environment," he said, adding that the current capital was "over its peak".

He said the main alternative options for relocating the kingdom's political and economic heartland were in eastern and northeastern provinces.

At least 562 people have been killed across the country in Thailand's worst floods in half a century, which have inundated parts of the capital, although the downtown area remains dry after authorities' efforts to divert the waters.

The low-lying metropolis lies just 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of the Gulf of Thailand, where various experts forecast sea level will rise by 19 to 29 centimetres (7 to 11 inches) by 2050 as a result of global warming.

Water levels would also increase in Bangkok's main Chao Phraya river, which already overflows regularly.

If no action is taken to protect the city, "in 50 years... most of Bangkok will be below sea level," said Anond Snidvongs, a climate change expert at the capital's Chulalongkorn University, told AFP earlier this month.


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Flood-weary residents lash out in Bangkok
Bangkok (AFP) Nov 14, 2011
Angry residents in flooded Bangkok protested on Monday, briefly blocking a major highway as frustration mounted that parts of the Thai capital are suffering badly while the centre stays dry. Thailand's worst floods in half a century, triggered by months of unusually heavy monsoon rains, have left at least 562 people dead around the kingdom and damaged millions of homes and livelihoods. A ... read more

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