Fri, Oct 28, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Bangkok residents flee as floodwater threatens dikes

Reuters, BANGKOK

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday said Bangkok was fighting the forces of nature as residents fled, rivers swelled and floodwater threatened to burst through dikes protecting the capital.

Yingluck, a novice politician who only took office in August, told reporters the crisis had now reached a critical point for Bangkok.

“It seems like we’re fighting against the forces of nature, massive floodwater that is causing damage to several of our dikes,” she said. “What we can do now is to manage it, so that it flows slowly, otherwise everybody will suffer.”

As Yingluck’s voice started to tremble, reporters asked if she was crying.

“No, I haven’t cried and I won’t. I’ll be strong to solve this problem for the Thai people. Right now we need to release floodwater to the sea as soon as possible and we need a quick rehabilitation plan,” she said.

Traffic in central Bangkok was light on the first day of a five-day holiday, declared by Yingluck’s government so people could leave. However, a main road out of the city to the flood-free south was jammed, with an exodus of cars to the seaside town of Hua Hin and the eastern resort city of Pattaya, where hotel rooms and homes to rent were hard to find.

Bangkok, a city of at least 12 million people, is in danger from run-off water from the north coinciding with high tides on the Chao Phraya River, which is already at a record high level in places.

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra, who has said many parts of the capital could be in danger by the weekend, said not all of the city would be hit.

“As the person in charge of Bangkok, I believe that the water will not flood every district. Some districts might not be inundated,” he told reporters.

Sukhumbhand’s comments have often contradicted those of Yingluck and have exposed rifts between the government and city authorities led by the opposition Democrat Party.

At least seven huge industrial estates have also had to close to the north of Bangkok.

The defense ministry said 50,000 armed forces personnel were standing by with 1,000 boats and 1,000 vehicles to help evacuate people. Authorities said Sai Mai, a third district in the city’s north, was in danger and residents should evacuate.

The government crisis center said there would soon be evacuation centers in eight provinces that could take in between 100,000 and 200,000 people.

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