Bloomberg News

Bangkok Floods ‘Beyond Our Control,’ Thai Government Says

October 27, 2011

(Updates with closing stock level in 12th paragraph.)

Oct. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Thailand’s government said it is losing the battle to protect Bangkok from rising floodwaters, and plans to open evacuation centers in eight provinces as the deluge forces more residents to give up their homes.

“The flooding is beyond our control now,” said Pracha Promnog, who heads the government’s flood relief operations. “The main wave of water hasn’t arrived in Bangkok yet.”

Diverting a three-meter-deep wall of water that is edging toward the capital is key to sparing the city of 9.7 million people from the severity of floods that have damaged about 10,000 factories north of the city. Authorities released large amounts of water earlier this month down a flood plain the size of Florida with Bangkok at its southern tip, after monsoon rains about 25 percent above the 30-year average filled dams to the north of the capital to capacity.

“We are trying to resist the nature of water,” Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said today. “We won’t be able to achieve that because there is such a large amount of water approaching Bangkok.”

Yingluck said all areas of Bangkok may be flooded for as long as a month. Yesterday, she said there was a “50-50” chance of avoiding a city-wide deluge. Conflicting warnings from the government have fueled panic buying of water and food, and some residents and foreign executives have left the capital as floodwaters seep into outlying districts.

Water levels in parts of Bangkok may reach as high as 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) if a major breach occurs in dikes to the north of the capital, with depths reaching about 50 centimeters in most places, Yingluck said yesterday.

Timing Unclear

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said the timing and the severity of flooding remains unclear.

“Bangkok will definitely be inundated but it is very difficult to have a clear estimation on the amount and timing of water,” he said at a seminar today. “It depends on the government’s strategy on water management.”

Residents were evacuated overnight from Don Mueang in the north and Bang Plad in the west, Sukhumbhand said. Authorities started evacuating people from the northern district of Sai Mai today as more water broke through levees, he said.

“The flooding won’t be so severe that we would need to order an evacuation of all districts,” Sukhumbhand said at an earlier briefing in Bangkok today.

5-Day Holiday

Thailand’s government announced a 5-day holiday starting today for 21 northern and central provinces to give people time to prepare for flooding. Commercial banks and financial markets will remain open, according to the Bank of Thailand.

The nation’s benchmark SET Index gained 2.3 percent. The baht rose 0.4 percent to 30.67 per dollar, its strongest level in a week as international investors boosted holdings of the nation’s equities.

The government plans to open evacuation centers in provinces including Chon Buri and Kanchanaburi that will be able to house 120,000 people, the flood center’s Pracha said.

“For people who choose to stay in Bangkok, we have a plan for a food-storage center,” he said. “Electricity and water should not be a problem.”

The biggest mass of water is still about 30 kilometers north of Bangkok, said Anond Snidvongs, executive director of the government’s Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency. The amount water now seeping into northern Bangkok is “so small we don’t even see it on satellite maps,” he said Oct. 25.

--Editors: Tony Jordan, John Brinsley

To contact the reporter on this story: Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok at anguyen@bloomberg.net; Supunnabul Suwannakij in Bangkok at ssuwannakij@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Jordan at tjordan3@bloomberg.net


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