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Bangkok's neighbours shoulder flood burden
by Staff Writers
Bang Pahan, Thailand (AFP) Oct 8, 2011

18 dead in Vietnam floods: government
Hanoi (AFP) Oct 7, 2011 - The death toll from the worst floods to strike Vietnam's Mekong Delta in a decade has risen to 18, the government said on Friday as it warned of further danger.

Sixteen of the dead were children, the national flood and storm control committee said.

"In the next few days, flooding in the Mekong Delta will rise slowly and continue to remain high," the committee said in a statement.

It said about 56,000 homes have been inundated and more than 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) of rice destroyed in the flooding, which started in mid-September.

Vietnam is the world's number-two rice exporter and the Mekong Delta in the south accounts for half the country's production.

Official media said the lost rice crop in one affected province alone was worth $2.7 million.

Unusually severe monsoon floods have killed 252 people in Thailand and 172 people in Cambodia, while inundating vast swathes of paddy fields in the region.

As Thailand battles to keep its worst floods in decades from swamping Bangkok, anger is growing among residents upriver who say their homes are being sacrificed to keep the capital dry.

"I pay the same tax as the people in Bangkok, why didn't they think of me too?" said a teary-eyed Wanpen Rittisarn, standing knee-deep in brown water in the centre of Bang Pahan, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital.

The 41-year-old said she had to abandon her home after it was inundated by two metres (six feet) of water, seeking the relative safety of the nearby town, which has now also been overrun by floodwaters.

"I'm having a hard time here. Who will care for me?" she said.

More than 250 Thais have died after two months of heavy rainfall which have inundated large swathes of the country and hit provinces on the northern outskirts of the capital particularly hard.

Huge efforts are now under way to stop the waters from reaching low-lying Bangkok, home to 12 million people, prompting pleas from some residents north of the city for sluice gates be raised to release floodwater.

But Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra warned in a nationally televised address on Friday that the country faced a deepening crisis and the floods would "directly affect Bangkok."

The authorities have defended their emphasis on the capital at a time when millions of people elsewhere have seen their homes or livelihoods damaged by the floods, which have hit three-quarters of the country.

"Bangkok is the heart of Thailand and is the heart of our economy," said a disaster prevention official who asked not to be named.

Walls of sandbags have been erected along the Chao Phraya river that flows through the city. Boats, their engines running, are also being used to help push the excess water out to sea.

And thanks to a complex irrigation system of canals and reservoirs, the authorities have been able to divert rain water away from the capital to "empty agricultural land".

"We are not trying to overprotect Bangkok to give the burden to others," the official insisted, but "we try to avoid an influx of a huge amount of flood (water) that could ruin our whole economy."

Already economists at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce estimate that the floods have caused damage of 104 billion baht (3.4 billion dollars) and will curb annual economic output by about one percent.

The annual monsoon floods are causing more material fallout with each passing year, according to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, a UN body.

Houses and crops have been destroyed, schools and hospitals ruined and tens of thousands of families displaced, not only in Thailand but also in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.

Uncontrolled urbanisation is at least partly to blame, Hang Thi Thanh Pham, UNISDR programme officer for Southeast Asia, told AFP.

"The linkage between rising disaster risks and poorly governed urbanisation is obvious," she said.

"More and more people are settling in flood-prone zones and high population density is a risk driver where the quality of housing, infrastructure and services is poor."

Governments in the region have taken steps to limit flood damage through a range of initiatives, such as building dams and dykes and using early warning systems.

But "it has been proven that our preparation measures and prevention methods that we have been using in the past decade are not enough," the Thai disaster official said, calling for a more regional approach to prevention efforts.

"We have to focus more on investment in prevention measures to prepare for incoming disasters because we can't reorganise or replan the whole country."

Bangkok, located on the gradually sinking Chao Phraya delta, has been classified by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development as one of the cities most at risk from coastal flooding by 2070.

A key test for the authorities is expected in mid-October when large amounts of run-off water reaches the capital and high tides make it harder for the floods to flow out to sea. More storms are also expected.

"Every canal in Bangkok is already at full capacity. If more rain comes it's likely that Bangkok will be inundated," said Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra.

While the crisis is providing an early test for Yingluck after just two months in office, not all the flood victims in Bang Pahan blame the government for their woes.

"I don't think the authorities can do anything, said Somsuay Rumrattana, 41, donning a bright orange life jacket and a shower cap. "If it didn't flood here, it would flood in Bangkok. That's not good either."

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Thailand warns floods menace Bangkok
Bangkok (AFP) Oct 7, 2011 - Thailand's prime minister warned Friday that Bangkok was under threat from the country's worst floods in decades as the authorities stepped up efforts to protect the capital and key industrial areas.

"The flooding situation is now considered a serious crisis," Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said in a nationally televised address, noting that 252 people have died across the country due to more than two months of heavy rains.

While the capital has so far escaped major flooding, Yingluck said the city of 12 million people would not escape unscathed.

"It is going to directly affect Bangkok," she said.

Homes, roads and factories are already inundated just north of the low-lying capital and more storms are expected in the days to come.

Many residents in affected areas have ignored the government's appeal to evacuate to safe areas, preferring to stay and guard homes submerged by the rising waters.

The authorities raced to put up flood walls alongside canals and rivers on Bangkok's northern outskirts as huge amounts of muddy water flow down river.

"Nothing could be worse than the current situation, but the most important thing is to prevent flooding in Bangkok and two industrial estates" north of the city, said Science and Technology Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi.

A key test is expected in mid-October, when large amounts of run-off water reach the capital and high tides make it harder for the floods to flow out to sea.

"Every canal in Bangkok is already at full capacity. If more rain comes it's likely that Bangkok will be inundated," Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said on television.

He said the city was preparing emergency stocks of food and drinking water, and setting up evacuation centres at schools.

The floods -- several metres deep in places -- have damaged the homes or livelihoods of millions of people in Thailand, particularly farmers, according to the government.

The military has been deployed to help victims and army camps are being opened to evacuees.

Japanese car giant Honda has suspended production temporarily after its parts factories was inundated in Ayutthaya, the ancient capital just north of Bangkok.

According to economists at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the damage amounts to 104 billion baht (3.4 billion dollars) in terms of the impact on buildings, crops, livestock, industry, tourism and trade.

It said the impact could knock about one percent off the country's annual economic output.

With more storms forecast, the fear is that the economic costs could rise if the waters reach the capital's business and economic hub.

"Certainly Bangkok will be flooded. We have to assess the situation after each storm," said independent expert Royal Chitradon, director of Thai Integrated Water Resource Management.

Bangkok, located on the gradually sinking Chao Phraya delta, has been classified by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development as one of the cities most at risk from coastal flooding by 2070.


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Worst Cambodian floods in a decade kill 167
Phnom Penh (AFP) Oct 5, 2011
Cambodia's worst floods in over a decade have killed 167 people, a disaster official said Wednesday, as efforts intensified to provide aid to tens of thousands of families. Sixty-eight children were among those who died in nearly two months of flooding caused by heavy rainfall that has also seen the Mekong River overflow, said Keo Vy, spokesman for the National Committee for Disaster Managem ... read more

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