by Staff Writers
Bangkok (AFP) Oct 20, 2011
Thailand's premier warned Thursday that it was impossible to stop the kingdom's worst floods in decades gushing into Bangkok, ordering the city's sluice gates to be opened to tackle the "national crisis".
The mass of muddy water crept closer to the low-lying capital, home to 12 million people, triggering an exodus in flood-stricken areas just outside Bangkok where residents waded through waist-deep water clutching belongings.
"We cannot block the water forever," said a sombre-looking Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
"The longer we block the water the higher it gets. We need areas that water can be drained through so the water can flow out to the sea.
"I have decided to ask Bangkok to open all gates, which could trigger an overflow, in order to drain water into the sea as soon as possible."
Yingluck, the sister of fugitive former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, is facing the biggest test so far of her fledgling administration and in recent days has appeared to be showing signs of strain.
In Nonthaburi Province, only a few kilometres (miles) north of Bangkok, people were seen wading through water with bags, boxes and suitcases as they abandoned their waterlogged homes.
"It was very scary when the water came," said Ruchuda Balisee, 40. "I'm worried about my dog, my son and my washing machine, which I just bought."
The prospect of serious flooding in the capital triggered a new rush to stock up on food and bottled water, while motorists parked hundreds of cars on bridges or elevated roads, prompting a police warning to move them.
Bangkok has so far escaped major flooding after the authorities reinforced floodwalls and diverted water to areas outside the capital to protect the country's political and economic heartland.
But a massive volume of run-off water is expected to reach the city by the weekend. It is hoped the water will run through Bangkok's many canals and out into the sea, but if there is too much water the waterways will overflow.
"Flood waters are coming from every direction and we cannot control them because it's a huge amount of water. We will try to warn people," said Yingluck, a political novice before taking office barely two months ago.
"This problem is very overwhelming. It's a national crisis so I hope to get cooperation from everybody."
Three months of heavy monsoon rains in Thailand have killed 320 people, damaged the homes and livelihoods of millions of people, mostly in the north and centre, and forced tens of thousands to seek refuge in shelters.
The authorities have warned that seven districts -- with a total official population of almost one million people -- are at particular risk in northern and eastern Bangkok.
Residents in those areas have been advised to unplug electrical appliances, move belongings to higher ground and study the city's evacuation plan.
Tens of thousands of soldiers and police have been mobilised to prevent people destroying flood defences.
The authorities have failed to protect a number of major industrial parks from the gushing brown water, which has inundated hundreds of factories outside Bangkok, disrupting production of cars, electronics and other goods.
The government says more than half a million people have been left without work.
Most of Thailand's main tourist attractions -- including the southern islands of Samui, Phuket and Phi Phi -- have been unaffected.
Bangkok's main airport, built on a drained marsh, is still operating as normal and its flood defences have been reinforced.
The capital has an extensive drainage system including 200 floodgates, 158 pump stations, seven giant underground tunnels and 1,682 canals covering 2,604 kilometres (1,618 miles), according to the city authorities.
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Thai PM warns Bangkok to brace for flooding
Bangkok (AFP) Oct 20, 2011
Thailand's premier warned Thursday that it was impossible to stop the kingdom's worst floods in decades gushing into Bangkok, ordering the city's sluice gates to be opened to tackle the "national crisis". "We cannot block the water forever," a sombre-looking Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of fugitive former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, told reporters, in the biggest test so far ... read more
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