Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yingluck pledges to continue fighting

Yingluck pledges to continue fighting

Bangkokians flee as water bears down on capital

With Bangkok now entering a critical period, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Thursday pledged to continue fighting the country’s worst flooding in decades.

Floodwaters are spreading to larger areas of the capital and residents of Don Mueang, Bang Phlad and Thawi Wattana districts have already been urged to evacuate to safer places of refuge, higher ground or temporary shelters provided by City Hall.

With a massive volume of water from the North combining with high tides from October 28-30 threatening to flood all 50 districts of the capital, large numbers of Bangkokians flocked to bus terminals and crowded Suvarnabhumi Airport, the country’s main airport, leaving the city for the provinces and other countries.

Don Mueang Airport, the city’s former international airport housing the government’s flood centre, was forced to suspend all domestic flight services due to flooding on Tuesday.

Today is the first of a 5-day official holiday the government declared for 21 flood-hit provinces including Bangkok to allow city dwellers to leave or prepare to deal with the deluge. Banks and financial markets will remain open from Thursday to Monday.

The notorious traffic snarl in the capital has become a thing of the past as the mass exodus left city streets with a few cars although public buses, taxis and motorcycle taxis were still running.

Many city dwellers have opted to take public transportation after parking their own vehicles at safe places for fear of the worsening flooding. Triple parking could be seen at tollways and expressways.

Many hotels are offering budget prices to help the flood-affected. Some companies also booked hotel rooms for their staff whose homes are being submerged.

The teary-eyed premier remained steadfast that there was no need to move the Flooding Relief Operations Centre (FROC) located in inundated Don Mueang Airport.

"We must evacuate people who are staying in Don Mueang Airport to safer areas first," Yingluck said. "FROC will be the last agency to move out."

Yingluck said Don Mueang Airport can still be reached via the elevated tollway but she expressed concern for workers who may face obstacles getting to the centre. She has tasked government officials to facilitate such travel by providing transport and shelters.

The premier noted that the relocation of FROC also depends on the electrical system at Don Mueang and that she will consider other options. She said she does not want to move the centre as all working systems have already been settled there.

The prime minister conceded Bangkok is entering a critical level. She said it’s impossible to divert floodwater and that floodwater will pass through every part of the capital but how much and how long it will persist in particular areas depends on the level of the land.

Yingluck said that temporary shelters have been prepared in Lop Buri, Chonburi and a number of other provinces and urged Bangkokians to evacuate to ease burden of officials in emergency cases.

Following criticism of FROC's performance, the premier called on the public to feel sympathy for FROC officials, saying they may feel tired while others have now become flood victims themselves.

"Today we ask for mutual support as officials have fought flooding for nearly two weeks. Many are exhausted and some problems cannot be controlled and were not caused by FROC," said Yingluck.
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