Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said most of Bangkok will be spared from floods that have swamped some outer suburbs as efforts to drain water to the east and west of the capital are succeeding.
“If everything goes as planned, there will be more relief,” Yingluck told reporters in Bangkok today. She said it was too early to say whether the flood threat had eased because some water gates in the capital’s canals need to be repaired to stem the flow of floodwaters into some districts.
Authorities are diverting water to spare the capital from floods that have spread over 63 of Thailand’s 77 provinces since late July, killed at least 381 people and swamped factories and farms. Efforts to save Bangkok by building temporary dikes around the inner city have exacerbated flooding in outlying districts, sparking clashes between residents and city officials.
“I sympathize with people both in Bangkok and in provinces like Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakarn and Ayutthaya where water hasn’t yet receded,” Yingluck said. “I want to ask for more time for water to drain into the sea.”
The disaster worsened earlier this month when more than 9 billion cubic meters of water released from dams that were filled to capacity swept down a river basin the size of Florida. Dikes north of Bangkok are holding back water that has inundated about 10,000 factories, disrupting the supply chains of companies including Honda Motor Co. and Western Digital Corp.
“It will take at least three months to revive the country," Yingluck said, adding that the government has set aside an 80 billion-baht ($2.6 billion) budget for reconstruction and has asked state and commercial banks to provide more than 300 billion baht in loans to companies affected by the floods.
Flooding in Bangkok is mainly limited to northern and eastern areas and low-lying places near canals. Some of the city’s major tourist attractions, including the Grand Palace and Chatuchak market, have experienced minor flooding, while the business districts of Silom and lower Sukhumvit remain dry, with sandbags protecting many office buildings and shops.
Confusion over the severity of flooding has fueled panic in the capital, leading to shortages of bottled water, eggs and baby formula.
A decline in sea levels after tides peaked over the weekend has eased concern that areas along the Chao Phraya River will be swamped, Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said today. The high tide reached 2.44 meters today, lower than an estimate of 2.5 meters, and won’t peak again until mid-November, he said.
Floodwaters flowing toward Bangkok from Nakhon Sawan and Ayutthaya provinces ‘‘appear to have stabilized,” Sukhumbhand said. “That will enable us to start draining the water out of flooded areas.”
Authorities are still concerned about northern and western districts including Don Mueang, Laksi and Thonburi, where levees are stopping a wall of water from flowing into the inner city.
“The flooding in those areas is still critical as there is a very large volume of water,” Sukhumbhand said at a media briefing. “I can’t say that the flooding crisis in Bangkok has passed because a lot of people in many districts are still suffering from rising water levels.”
Yingluck yesterday asked people living outside Bangkok’s flood defenses not to damage dikes, after some residents clashed with officials who were trying to repair flood gates.
“We have to protect the barriers,” Yingluck said. “Some water may still overflow the barriers, but it won’t cause the whole city to be swamped.”
Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport is operating normally and the company that operates the facility is “confident” that it can be protected from flooding, Somchai Sawasdeepon, senior executive vice president of Airports of Thailand Pcl, said Oct. 28.
Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Singapore Airlines Ltd. have both canceled some Bangkok flights as the waters deter visitors.
The central bank last week cut its forecast for economic growth this year as the floods take a toll on manufacturing and tourism. Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy may expand 2.6 percent in 2011, down from an earlier forecast of 4.1 percent, and 4.1 percent next year, the Bank of Thailand said.
The government announced a 5-day holiday through Oct. 31 for 21 northern and central provinces to give people time to prepare for flooding. Commercial banks and financial markets will remain open.
The disaster has claimed at least 381 lives since July 25, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said on its website. About 26 of Thailand’s 77 provinces are still affected, the agency said. Rainfall this year through Oct. 21 was 42 percent above average, according to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.
“The situation isn’t beyond what we expected,” Yingluck said yesterday. “After the water stabilizes, it will gradually recede.”
--With assistance from Daniel Ten Kate and Supunnabul Suwannakij in Bangkok. Editors: Tony Jordan, Peter Hirschberg
To contact the reporters on this story: Suttinee Yuvejwattana in Bangkok at firstname.lastname@example.org; Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok at email@example.com
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