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Despite receding waters, Bangkok's fears are not over

Luc Citrinot, eTN  Oct 17, 2011

BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) - Fearing the worst for Bangkok over the last ten days, Thai government has sped up measures to protect the capital city from heavy flooding, which would have probably brought the country to a halt. Despite some confusion in information and the first measures to be applied, both the government and Bangkok administration have managed so far to contain torrents of waters heading for the Bangkok city center, thanks to the strong backing of military forces. The extension of existing evacuation tunnels, as well as the dredging of canals, helped to divert waters into the sea.

With less rain falling for the last two days over Bangkok, Chao Praya River’s waters have started to recede. In the northern Part of Bangkok, floodwalls and dykes were reinforced and their height raised to better contain waters. However, risks continue to exist as some of the constructed floodwalls might breach, allowing hundreds of million of cubic meters of water to flow into Bangkok’s streets.

While there are little possibilities for a massive flooding of Bangkok’s city center, the capital’s outskirts in the north and the east are more exposed. On Monday, Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra reminded the capital’s inhabitants that Bangkok was not yet safe from flooding. Monday night, Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand staged an urgent press conference indicating that waters in neighbourign Pathum Thani could no longer be hold back and reduced. Heavy flood waters were then expected to reach Northern Bangkok -especially the district of Don Muang and Sai Mai within the next 36 hours of his announcement.

Meanwhile, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport is well protected by a system of dykes, pumps, and canals. A 23.5-kilometer earth dyke was reinforced around the airport while six reservoirs are available that can hold up to four million cubic meters of water for drainage. All systems have been reinforced over the last week. Contingency plans, however, exist for airlines, which could transfer their operations to Pattaya-U Tapao Airport, located two hours away from the capital. Don Muang Airport could face more problems if torrential waters retained further North would flow through the city.

While Bangkok feels slightly relieved, economic experts have started to evaluate the damages done to the economy by the flooding, which is currently estimated to be in the range of THB 100 to 190 billion (US$3.25 billion to US$6.17 billion). Many industrial estates around Ayutthaya province were completely devastated by waters and are unlikely to be operational for many weeks.

Despite receding waters, Bangkok's fears are not over
Bangkok skies on October 11, 2011 / photo by Luc Citrinot)

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