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Residents in flood-prone Bangkok urged to leave
by Staff Writers
Bangkok (AFP) Oct 26, 2011

Britain warns against travel to flood-threatened Bangkok
London (AFP) Oct 26, 2011 - Britain on Wednesday urged against all but essential travel to Bangkok as the Thai capital braced itself for severe floods.

Britain's Foreign Office also warned against travel to the twenty-six provinces in Thailand currently affected by widespread flooding.

A huge runoff from the north equivalent to 480,000 Olympic swimming pools is expected to reach the capital at the same time as seasonal high tides, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Wednesday.

Britain's foreign ministry advised nationals already in Bangkok to exercise caution and keep up to date with local developments.

The Thai government has ordered a five-day holiday from Thursday for 21 provinces including Bangkok, to allow the city's residents to prepare for the inundation or leave.

Thai authorities urged residents in flood-prone areas of Bangkok to evacuate Wednesday, warning them that the arrival of a massive deluge of water was imminent.

A huge runoff from the north equivalent to 480,000 Olympic swimming pools is expected to reach the capital at the same time as seasonal high tides, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

"The floodwater has reached the inner city," it said in a statement, putting the expected volume of water at 1.2 billion cubic metres.

The government has ordered a five-day holiday from Thursday for 21 provinces including Bangkok, to allow the city's residents to prepare for the inundation or leave.

"I would like to ask Bangkok people who are already affected or could be affected soon to consider evacuating to other places," said Thongthong Chantarangsu, spokesman for the country's Flood Relief Operations Centre (FROC).

"Food and deliveries will become more difficult," he added. FROC said it was working on providing extra shelters across the city of 12 million people.

Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said that a large amount of water "will get to Bangkok tonight", after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said flood barriers might not be able to hold back the deluge.

During the holiday Government offices will be closed and authorities have urged public and private companies to allow their staff the time off, but the central bank said financial markets and banks would not shut.

Public schools in Bangkok, currently on holiday, are not expected to reopen until November 15, and several international schools have also delayed the return of pupils.

More than 600 inmates, including some on death row, were moved on Wednesday from the notorious Bang Kwang prison on the Chao Phraya riverbank -- better known as the "Bangkok Hilton".

Workers at Dusit Zoo, also near the waterway, also began to evacuate some of its residents, including spotted deer and antelopes, while structures were provided for lions to climb up to safety.

Adding to the deluged kingdom's woes are fears of crocodiles on the loose from flooded farms -- another three were captured Wednesday in Nonthaburi province, north of the capital.

"They are between 1.7 and 1.8 metres (five and a half and six feet) long," an official from the fisheries department told AFP, adding that they knew of no attacks on humans by the escaped reptiles, whose numbers remain unclear.

The country's worst flooding crisis in decades has been plagued by contradictory information from national and local authorities, confusing Bangkok residents who have been bracing for the onslaught of water for days.

Yingluck said on Wednesday she was "fifty percent confident that the inner zone of Bangkok will not be completely flooded," toning down comments from a day before when she said flooding in central Bangkok was "highly likely".

She said a "worst-case scenario" would see parts of the low-lying city inundated by "more than one metre" of water.

"Initially, the floods in Bangkok will last for two weeks to one month," she added.

Many supermarkets were running low on essential items such as bottled water and eggs as residents stocked up on goods ahead of the expected deluge, and the premier advised people to boil tap water before consuming it.

More than 370 people have been killed in the three-month flood crisis caused by unusually heavy monsoon rains, damaging the homes of millions of people and forcing tens of thousands into evacuation centres.

Bangkok's main international airport, Suvarnabhumi, is operating as normal but the domestic Don Mueang airport in the north of the city suspended flights on Tuesday until November 1, after waters started seeping onto the runways.

About 4,000 flood evacuees who had found refuge at a disused terminal on the compound were being moved to other shelters.

The disaster is expected to shave around one percent off Thailand's economic growth in 2011, according to the government, which on Tuesday announced a raft of measures to help flood-affected businesses in an bid to reassure investors.

Proposals to boost investor confidence include about $10 billion in soft loans and tax waivers.

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US Navy ship docks at Thailand port: Pentagon
Washington (AFP) Oct 26, 2011 - A US destroyer has docked at a port in Thailand for a routine visit, the Pentagon said Wednesday, as Bangkok has declined any US military assistance in response to massive flooding.

The USS Mustin arrived two days ago at the port of Laem Chabang but was not involved in any disaster relief efforts even as the country faced the worst flooding in decades.

"We do have a destroyer that's pulled into a port there and is working with a country team, to just do community relations and outreach there locally, donating clothing and food and some money to the Red Cross," spokesman Captain John Kirby told reporters.

"It's not part of an officially, government-requested batch of help there."

The US Navy had sent an aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, and other ships to the area for possible assistance with emergency efforts in Thailand but the Bangkok government never issued a formal request for help and the vessels departed.

Defense officials in Washington this week had said the United States received "mixed messages" from Bangkok as to whether it wanted help. But the Pentagon has since issued a statement praising Thailand's response to the crisis.

Although US Pacific Command was "leaning forward" and ready to help, it was up to Bangkok to decide whether it required outside assistance, Kirby said.

"You have to be there at the invitation of the host government," he said.

"We're still willing to work and continue to work with the Thai government to assess whatever help they might need and that we might be able to provide."

US and Thai leaders would continue to confer about any possible disaster relief assistance, Kirby added.


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Bangkok in 'crisis mode' as floods advance
Bangkok (AFP) Oct 25, 2011
Bangkok's second airport shut down Tuesday as floodwaters advanced into the Thai capital, forcing authorities in "crisis mode" to declare a five-day public holiday in preparation for the deluge. The cabinet ordered an October 27-31 holiday for Bangkok and 20 other provinces affected by the kingdom's worst flooding in decades, amid warnings a high tide would surge up the capital's main river ... read more

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