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Thailand fights to keep Bangkok dry
by Staff Writers
Bangkok (AFP) Oct 13, 2011

Storm death toll rises to eight in Philippines
Manila (AFP) Oct 13, 2011 - The death toll from tropical storm Banyan rose to eight on Thursday and two people missing, in the latest disaster to hit the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, the government said.

Most victims drowned while one man was blown off a bridge, another was fatally electrocuted and a small-scale miner was entombed by a landslide when the storm swept through the country this week, the civil defence office said.

Almost 9,000 people fled to government evacuation centres ahead of the storm which slammed into the central islands on Wednesday, it added.

Sea travel and domestic flights were cancelled amid the storm, the third weather disturbance to hit the country in less than a month.

Two typhoons, Nesat and Nalgae, hit the country within days of each other from September 27, leaving more than 100 people dead and at least 27 missing.

Thai authorities battled Thursday to keep the country's worst floods in decades from inundating Bangkok, urging the city's 12 million residents not to panic after a dyke burst in the northern suburbs.

Unusually heavy monsoon rains have killed at least 283 people, destroyed crops, inundated hundreds of factories and damaged the homes or livelihoods of millions of people in Thailand, according to the government.

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

The National Flood Relief Centre warned water up to one metre (3.3 feet) deep was expected in Rangsit, Saimai, Lamlukka and Klongluang in Bangkok's northern suburbs, advising people living in one-storey buildings to evacuate.

But the authorities later reassured the public, saying they were close to repairing the broken dyke.

"There is really a lot of water but it is under our control," Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said on television. "It's not at a critical level. You can be worried but don't panic."

Inner Bangkok, including the main tourist districts, was not affected and conditions in most of the city remained normal.

Currently 26 out of 77 provinces are affected, while Bangkok is 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.

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.

"This year is the worst. It flooded around here every year but this year is the highest level," said Sukon Chadeth, a 36-year-old food seller living near the river.

The authorities are preparing to dredge and drain canals in the capital.

"We will dig deep and expand canals so the water can flow easily," said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. "I will assign military to take responsibility for it."

The floods have dealt a heavy blow to Thailand's economy. Japanese automakers such as Toyota have suspended production in the kingdom due to water damage to facilities or disruptions to parts supplies.

On Thursday, floodwater started pouring into Ayutthaya's Hi-Tech Industrial Estate -- home to about 140 plants which employ about 50,000 workers -- after a section of a dyke collapsed.

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.

Culture minister Sukumol Kunplome said it was unclear how much damage there was because the city was still under water.

"Once the water subsides, we can estimate our loss," she told AFP.

Flooding has also hit other countries in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, where almost 250 people have died. In Vietnam, the death toll has risen to 43 and officials say most of the dead are children.

On the edges of Bangkok's Chao Phraya River, some residents were getting ready to leave their homes if necessary.

"Even though we have the barrier, we're not confident," said 34-year-old Boonluea Petchjun. "The water can come in any time so I already prepared by packing my important belongings and I am ready to evacuate any time."

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Cambodia cancels festival as flood death toll rises
Phnom Penh (AFP) Oct 13, 2011 - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday cancelled the nation's biggest annual festival as he announced that the death toll from the worst flooding in over a decade had risen to 247.

The funds needed to put on the popular Water Festival, due to take place in the capital from November 9 to 11, would be better spent helping the tens of thousands of families affected, he said.

"If we don't spend the state budget for the (festival) preparations in Phnom Penh... we can save some money to improve the living standards of our people and repair the damage," Hun Sen said in a televised speech.

He also said the precariously high water level of the Tonle Sap river that flows through the city would present a "high risk" to revellers.

More than 270,000 families nationwide have seen their homes or livelihoods waterlogged in two months of flooding caused by heavy rain that has resulted in the Mekong River bursting its banks, according to official estimates.

Hun Sen said the government, the Cambodian Red Cross and several other relief organisations were racing to provide emergency aid to the victims, reaching more than 76,000 families so far.

The country's deadliest floods since 2000, which have inundated some 390,000 hectares (960,000 acres) of rice paddies, represent a huge challenge to impoverished Cambodia but the government has not appealed for international assistance.

In neighbouring Thailand, the worst monsoon floods in decades have left more than 280 people dead.

Cambodia's Water Festival, which marks the reversal of the flow between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, usually draws two million visitors to the capital to enjoy dragon boat races, fireworks and concerts.

Last year's event ended in tragedy when more than 350 people were killed in a stampede on a packed and narrow bridge.


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Luminous grains of sand determine year of historic storm flood
Delft, Germany (SPX) Oct 13, 2011
Scientists at TU Delft have successfully matched a layer of sediment from the dunes near Heemskerk to a severe storm flood that occurred in either 1775 or 1776. This type of information helps us gain more insight into past storm floods and predict future surges more accurately. The scientists' findings have been published in the online edition of the scientific magazine Geology, and will be on t ... read more

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