Bangkok escapes worst of flooding

Monday 17th Oct 2011 by theWeather Club

Citizens of Thailand's capital Bangkok are breathing a collective sigh of relief today as authorities say they believe the city is set to escape the worst of the flooding that has devastated large areas of the country. Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut said there were good signs that water levels on the city's key Chao Phraya river had reached their highest levels. Volunteers have spent days filling sandbags and draining canals to try to protect homes and businesses. Huge swathes of the country have been devastated by months of monsoon rains. Entire villages have been submerged and more than 280 people have been killed since the flooding began in late July. 

Sandbags have been piled up around the city, and many residents have stocked up on emergency supplies. The Bangkok authorities have taken no chances in recent days, draining and dredging canals to help water flow out to sea. They even had the novel idea of lining up 1,000 local boats with their propellors running on the Chao Phraya, Bang Pa Kong and Tha Chin rivers to keep the water flowing past the city. Ms Yingluck, a local resident who was on the banks of the Chao Phraya north of Bangkok, told reporters that even though the boats' propellers moved only a small amount of water it was still a worthwhile effort.

"A large amount of water from the north flowed past Bangkok to the Gulf of Thailand yesterday," Mr Theera said on Sunday. Water levels would be "stable" from now on, he said, easing fears that Bangkok was at risk from a combination of run-off water from the flood-hit north as well as high tides and bad weather. Mr Theera stopped short of saying Bangkok was over the worst, although Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Sunday: "I believe Bangkok will be safe." Business in Bangkok appeared to carry on mostly as normal on Sunday - the period of highest concern - with the city's main Suvarnabhumi airport operating as usual.

With the danger to the capital now believed to have passed, focus is shifting to a large industrial estate of Navanakorn, north of Bangkok, which is home to dozens of factories and businesses - many of which make electronic components and car parts. The government has pledged to do all it can to protect the industrial estate from being engulfed by flood water. A small army of volunteers is helping to fill sandbags, which are then being taken by truck to shore up the barricades. Thailand's economy has been disrupted by the weeks of flooding, with many factories - including ones owned by Toyota and Honda - being forced to suspend production because of damage to facilities or disruption to local supply chains.

There is also concern over the ancient capital city of Ayutthaya. The city, a World Heritage site which is home to some of the world's most famous temples and monuments, has been badly affected and there is concern that some of these irreplaceable sites may have been damaged.