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Bangkok tries to master floods

Luc Citrinot, eTN  Oct 22, 2011

BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) - With official communication from the government being very partial, if not nonexistent or contradictory, it has been difficult over the last three days to really know what was has been going on in Bangkok. In a city cherishing so much rumors, the most incredible information that has circulated are things such as the deliberate actions by the military to topple the government by flooding Bangkok, or that areas, such as Rachadaphisek Boulevard, are under water. None of them have so far been proved true.

The situation on Saturday evening showed a metropolis with two faces. The northern part of the capital – where the old Don Muang airport is located - has been flooded, with shopping centers and Thammasat University suffering a high tide. This area is roughly 10 to 15 kilometers away from Bangkok’s city core. There has been some partial flooding around Phaoyothin Road - also in the north - while the latest information points to some flooding along the Chao Praya River. This is due to the continuous drainage of water that has accumulated north of Bangkok beyond sluice gates and dykes.

While the government asked the army to protect most strategic locations in Bangkok – such as Royal palaces, temples, government offices, and major infrastructure such as hospitals - the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration will protect many locations in town through the activation of more water pumps to lower the level of water in canals and along the river.

Luckily, it has not rained over the last two or three days, with sunny clear skies providing hot weather over Bangkok and Northern Thailand. Despite remaining largely dry for the time being, Bangkok has started to sink into a mood of panic, which might affect travelers. People rushed to supermarkets and food shops for a week to stock up on food. Dry food, cans, and drinking water has almost disappeared from shops’ shelves. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra decided to open warehouses at Don Muang Airport to stock food, which should help over the next week to reduce current shortages.

With many cars being parked at higher levels along bridges and highways, traffic can also be more chaotic than usual. Low-cost carrier, AirAsia, communicated on Saturday to reassure travelers that all its flights are taking place, however, it may take a longer time to get to the airport. Domestic flights have indeed been packed by travelers to North and Northeast Thailand, as many of the highways to those regions were cut off by flooding.

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, most areas of central Bangkok, where tourists normally go, are not flooded and are fully accessible. Flood waters are being drained through parts of Bangkok in a controlled manner. Within the Bangkok metropolitan area, most flooding is occurring in outlying residential and industrial zones. The agency indicated that travel conditions south of Bangkok are so far not affected. Tourist facilities and transportation are fully operational to Hua Hin, Pattaya, Ratchaburi, and Samut Songkhram floating markets. However, the historical city of Ayutthaya is totally sealed off by waters from the rest of the country.

So far, over 1,000 people have been evacuated in Bangkok, while over 110,000 Thai have been displaced due to the floodings. Bangkok is now anxious about the next few days. In a speech on television, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra declared that flooding is likely to continue over a couple of weeks. "There is a huge volume of run-off water from the north, and we can't effectively block it but can only slow the flow because our barriers are temporary," she explained to news agency AFP. She also advised Bangkok inhabitants to move to a higher level with their belongings - at least one meter above ground.

Bangkok tries to master floods
Along Bangkok Chao Praya river viewed from the plane / Photo by Luc Citrinot

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