Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Race Against Time

The Nation October 13, 2011 6:02 am
Race Against Time

Yingluck says HM is very worried about people affected by floods , PM confident inner city will be safe ; Sukhumband: Mix of factors hold key

Authorities are going all out in their efforts to protect the capital from flooding.
His Majesty the King suggested yesterday that the government expedite release of water from the eastern parts of Bangkok into the sea to help reduce flood waters in upstream provinces, Prime Minister Yingluck said last night following an audience with the King.

Yingluck said that the authorities would speed up dredging of canals in the eastern parts of the capital to help push water into the sea. She would also inspect the western parts of Bangkok today to determine the areas for releasing water from upriver.

She said His Majesty noted that water was plentiful this year and flooding had caused much damage in many areas of the country. "His Majesty has much concern for the people. I told him about we have done to take care of the people," the prime minister said.

Meanwhile, Pathum Thani Governor Phirasak Hummueangkao yesterday proposed that the government declare a state of emergency in his province so as to stop locals trying to break down temporary flood barriers. Made of sandbags, these barriers have played a crucial role in shielding the capital from floods that have wreaked havoc in dozens of provinces.

"I have now asked soldiers to guard the floodwalls," Phirasak said yesterday. He said many flood-hit people had made several attempts to destroy the 1.5-metre-high sandbag wall along Sam Khok-Pathum Thani Road in Sam Khok district, without regard for others. "I have told police to take action against them. These people are trying to target others for their trouble," Phirasak said.

The 6-kilometre-long flood barrier prevents the water in Pathum Thani from flowing to other provinces.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said the people of Pathum Thani were now under stress. She pinned hopes on the fact that there is a floodwall under the care of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) along the shared borders.

The PM said she decided against declaring a state of emergency because the country was fighting natural disasters, not flood-hit people."We are trying to explain to people that water is now everywhere." She said some parts of the capital would be affected, too, but she believed inner Bangkok would be safe. As of press time, water 40-50 centimetres deep had covered many areas of Bangkok's Nong Chok, Klong Sam Wa, Min Buri and Lat Krabang districts.

Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra inspected the floodwall along the Rangsit Prayoonsak Canal in Pathum Thani's Muang district. "We have raised the height of the floodwall by another 20cm. I have added another row of sandbags to reinforce the structure," he said.

More than 200,000 sandbags have been used to create this floodwall and shield Bangkok as well as a key zone of Pathum Thani. A massive amount of run-off water from the upper part of the country is now racing southwards to the Gulf of Thailand. When it reached Ayutthaya, the old capital was virtually submerged.

The BMA is monitoring the situation around the clock. The water level in the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok's Thawee Watthana district reached 2.01 metres above mean sea level while the concrete embankment there stood 2.5 metres high.

"The situation is still under control but there are many factors involved," Sukhumbhand said.

He pointed at possible downpours, run-off water from the North, and the high tide. "It's quite certain that the run-off water will arrive during the high-tide period. It will come between October 16 and 18," the governor said.

In a bid to reduce flood risks, the BMA was urgently pushing water out of the Saensaeb Canal into the giant water tunnel of Phra Khanong. The operation affected water levels along the canal, forcing boat services between Pratunam and Phan Fah Bridge to be suspended.

Speaking in his capacity as the head of the Flood Relief Operation Command, Justice Minister Pol General Pracha Promnok said the government was doing its best to protect the capital from inundation.

"But at this point, we have to warn people to be on full alert. Water has now almost surrounded Bangkok. Embankment and flood barriers have kept much of the water out but the situation will become very worrying if a storm comes in," he said.

Yingluck urged people to take precautions without panicking. "Please move your belongings to higher ground if you live in low-lying or flood-prone areas," she said.
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