Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thailand shores up capital as waters creep higher

Sandbags being filled and laid around the Thai Parliament building in Bangkok on Sunday. Thailand's capital was bracing for floods as water levels rose in some of Bangkok's northern suburbs.

BANGKOK: Thailand's capital was braced for possible flooding on Sunday as water levels rose in some of Bangkok's northern suburbs and troops raced to fortify defence walls to protect two key industrial zones.
Measures to divert floodwater from the north around the city and into the Gulf of Thailand appeared to be working but the possibility of heavy rainfall into canals already full to the brim left much of the city uneasy.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said authorities were doing everything possible to drive the water out and help those most in need.
"The water is coming from different places and headed in the same direction. We're trying to build walls, there will be some impact on Bangkok, but we don't know the extent of that," Yingluck told reporters. Thailand's worst flooding in half a century has affected a third of the country and has been bearing down on Bangkok since early last week, despite initial assurances that the capital would escape the floods. Twenty-eight of provinces and 2.46 million people are affected, with water covering an area the size of Kuwait.
A total of 356 people have been killed since July 25 and at least 113,000 have moved to more than 1,700 makeshift shelters. The labour ministry estimates about 650,000 industrial workers do not have an income.
Water covered some northern Bangkok suburbs on Sunday after spilling out of the Prapa canal.
Residents around the densely populated Don Muang area, where one airport is located, were seen boarding trucks for evacuation and many homes were flooded, with water levels at two metres in some parts.
An estimated 1,200 people living in shanty towns along the banks of the swelling Chao Phraya River were advised to leave on Saturday, while cars were moved to higher ground and residents searched for bottled water or sandbags. The full force of the flooding has hit central provinces and those on the fringes of Bangkok, where water levels have reached as high as three metres, with vehicles completely submerged and some residents believed to be stranded in their homes.
Large swathes of farmland have been damaged, with traders anticipating a loss of about 2 million tonnes of milled rice. But the country's rubber and sugar industries are expected to emerge relatively unscathed.
The crisis is likely to have a heavy toll on the export-driven economy, Southeast Asia's second-biggest, with supply chains severely disrupted by blocked roads and the closure of seven swamped industrial estates in Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi and Ayutthaya provinces bordering Bangkok.
Growth might be about 3 percent rather than the 4.1 percent forecast earlier, the central bank said, although the finance minister has said it may not even top 2 percent this year.
Bangkok was sunny on Sunday, although the Meteorological Department has forecast scattered rain.
Troops were raising levels of flood walls to protect Lat Krabang and Bangchan industrial zones to the north and east of the city but army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Saturday he could not guarantee they would not be breached.
Lat Krabang hosts 254 factories - 49 Japanese - and Bangchan has 90. Both are responsible for autos, transport, food and beverage and electrical appliances industries. Honda , Isuzu Motors and Unilever are among the firms operating at the two estates.
Japanese automakers have suffered badly, with output slashed by 6,000 units a day, while big tech firms face disruptions in manufacturing of computer hard drives. - theStarOnline

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