Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Thailand moved to protect the capital, Bangkok, and the main international airport from flood waters as Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said 10 provinces are still at “critical risk” after being inundated.
“This disaster has caused the greatest loss and is the most severe in Thailand’s history,” Yingluck said in a nationwide television and radio address yesterday. “We are working on solving the crisis and will introduce long-term measures to prevent it from happening again.”
Bangkok authorities are rushing to widen canals and bolster flood barriers around the city of 9.7 million people to save the capital from floods that crippled manufacturing hubs in central provinces last week.
Yingluck said the disaster, which has displaced more than 2 million people, is the worst in the nation’s history.
“The government has to protect strategic areas and the heart of the economy including industrial and business zones, provincial capitals, Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi airport and evacuation centers,” Yingluck said.
At least 297 people have been killed since monsoon rains began lashing Thailand in late July, according to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation. Heavy rains are expected in central and eastern provinces and in Bangkok today and tomorrow, the agency said.
Yingluck said the situation remains “critical” in 10 of the 26 provinces still affected by flooding. Floodwaters have swamped industrial estates in Ayutthaya province, 67 kilometers (42 miles) north of Bangkok, halting production at factories operated by Japanese manufacturers including Nikon Corp. and Pioneer Corp.
The cost of the disaster may rise to as much as 120 billion baht ($3.9 billion), and force the central bank to cut its forecast for economic growth this year, Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul said Oct. 14. A total of 930 factories nationwide have been damaged, according to data from the Ministry of Industry.
“The flooding impact on the whole economy will depend on the rehabilitation process after this,” Prasarn said. “We need to monitor the situation closely.”
Yingluck’s two-month-old administration is balancing needs to protect Bangkok from inundation while evacuating people and delivering aid to areas outside the capital’s flood barriers that are already under as much as a meter of water.
“The government realizes that people have already suffered from this disaster for three months,” Yingluck said. “It’s our priority to solve the problem.”
Thailand is affected by seasonal floods each year, though a southwest monsoon and five tropical storms in recent months have made this year’s deluge the most severe in terms of damage and loss of life, Yingluck said.
A U.S. C-130 transport plane carrying thousands of sandbags and 10 Marines landed at Don Muang airport yesterday to support the aid effort, U.S. embassy spokesman Walter Braunohler said.
The U.S. offered two helicopters to help with relief efforts, along with 10 marines and thousands of sandbags, said Sean Boonpracong, a spokesman for the flood-relief center. Japan and China both offered 30 million baht, he said.
Water levels in central Nakhon Sawan province have stabilized after dams reduced the amount of water released downstream, Yingluck said. Water levels rose in Ayutthaya Oct. 14, though authorities are working to improve drainage.
“The government will accelerate water drainage from the Chao Phraya river into the sea and through the eastern and western sides of Bangkok,” Yingluck said.
Authorities have finished widening three canals to accelerate drainage and will widen four more near the capital, she said. Three flood barriers in the city have been extended over the past few days, Yingluck said.
While inner Bangkok is still unaffected by flooding, authorities are concerned about areas in the city’s west, where defenses are weaker, the state-owned MCOT news agency reported, citing Bangkok’s Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra.
Four provinces in Thailand’s south are at risk from flash floods and landslides, the nation’s disaster agency said on its website yesterday. Train services to northern Thailand remain suspended, it said.
--With assistance from Suttinee Yuvejwattana and Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok. Editors: Tony Jordan, Paul Tighe
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