Sunday, June 23, 2024

Thousands flee Bangkok as high tide threatens new flood surge


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BANGKOK: Traffic clogged roads out of Bangkok on Friday as thousands of people fled ahead of a high tide expected to worsen floods that have inundated factories and prompted foreign governments to warn citizens to stay away from one of Asia’s biggest cities.

Authorities have expressed concern that Bangkok’s main Chao Phraya River will burst its banks over the weekend during the unusually high tide that begins on Friday. Buildings across Bangkok have been sand-bagged for protection, and some vulnerable streets were nearly deserted.

Thailand’s worst flooding in half a century, caused in part by unusually heavy monsoon rain, has killed 377 people since mid-July and disrupted the lives of nearly 2.2 million, until now mostly in the north and central provinces.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said she was considering a proposal to dig channels into some roads in eastern Bangkok to drain water into the Gulf of Thailand, an idea backed by the chairman of the Thailand unit of Toyota Motor Corp whose factories have been badly flooded.

”We need to look into several details on whether it works,” Yingluck told reporters.

The Meteorological Department warned residents living along the Chao Phraya they could face rising waters. Roads around the Grand Palace, a top tourist attraction, are partially flooded along with some streets in densely populated Chinatown.

Today morning, on a street in front of the Grand Palace normally bustling with tourists, a two-metre (6 1/2-ft) snake was caught by a motorcycle taxi driver. Residents have also had to contend with crocodiles escaping from flooded farms.

While many of the the inner-city streets of Bangkok remained dry, the suburbs continued to struggle with surging waters.

In the riverside shantytown of Bang Phlad, small wooden homes were knee-deep in foul-smelling water with rubbish floating on the surface. Residents carried belongings above their heads, struggling against the current of water pumped back out to the river. Tem Kaewkeow, 73, sat on a pile of tyres, staring at the blank screen of a half-submerged television set.

”Everything is damaged, but what can I do? This is the force of nature,” he said, shirtless and sipping on water he had boiled on a small gas stove.

”I don’t plan to leave. This is my home.”

At the district’s Yanhee hospital, two dozen emergency room doctors and nurses shovelled sand into sacks to fortify a one-metre (3-ft) wall protecting the building as water levels rose in a nearby canal brimming with trash.

”Everyone here is working around the clock to protect the hospital,” said Dr Supot Sumritvvanitcha, the hospital’s chief executive. ”We’re using trucks, motorbikes and boats to get help to people. Yesterday, we brought a pregnant woman here by boat to deliver a baby.” Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra told reporters late on Thursday that floodwaters might overflow embankments. (PTI)


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