Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Thai officials built more barriers around Bangkok as floodwaters edged closer to the city’s center, forcing new evacuations and the closure of one of the country’s biggest shopping malls.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said a 6-kilometer (3.7- mile) wall of sandbags being completed along a canal north of Bangkok will help ease flooding in eastern parts of the capital. Rising floodwaters in the city’s northern suburbs forced the closure of the Central Plaza Ladprao shopping mall, close to the city’s famous Chatuchak weekend market.
Bangkok officials are bolstering a network of dikes, canals and sandbag barriers to help divert a slow-moving mass of floodwater around the city center. The floods have claimed at least 442 lives since late July and shuttered 10,000 factories in provinces north of Bangkok, disrupting global supply chains for companies including Sony Corp. and Honda Motor Co.
“We can’t lose the battle this time,” Army chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha told reporters today. “If we’re defeated, the damage to the country will be tremendous. Now we’re still fighting, but the enemy is massive.”
The disaster worsened last month, when rainfall about 40 percent more than the annual average filled dams north of Bangkok to capacity, prompting authorities to release more than 9 billion cubic meters of water down a river basin the size of Florida, with Bangkok at its southern tip.
The deluge spread over 64 of Thailand’s 77 provinces, damaging World Heritage-listed temples in Ayutthaya province, destroying 15 percent of the nation’s rice crop and flooding the homes of almost 10 million people, according to government data.
Efforts to save Bangkok, a city of 9.7 million people, are slowing the flow of water to the Gulf of Thailand, 30 kilometers (19 miles) to the south, exacerbating flooding in areas to the north, east and west of the capital.
“The most worrisome part is western Bangkok because there is a massive amount of water flowing from Nakorn Pathom and Nonthaburi” provinces, Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said.
Bangkok’s business districts of Silom and lower Sukhumvit Road remain dry, and Suvarnabhumi Airport and public transport links are unaffected. The airport’s perimeter is protected by a 3.5-meter-high dike, Airports of Thailand Pcl said today.
“I am confident the airport can operate safely and as normal,” Somchai Sawasdeepon, the company’s senior executive vice president, told reporters in Bangkok. “But we will have a team to monitor the situation 24 hours a day.”
Evacuations have been ordered in almost a quarter of Bangkok’s 50 districts, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said. An evacuation order for additional areas of Chatuchak and Nong Khen districts was issued today, the BMA said.
‘Can Flow Everywhere’
“There are still many districts that are not flooded yet,” Sukhumbhand said today. “We still hope we can protect a number of districts. But I don’t like to forecast how many districts will be safe because it’s difficult to estimate the water. It can flow everywhere.”
Central Pattana Pcl, Thailand’s biggest shopping mall developer, closed its mall in Lard Prao today as floodwaters rose, Sakorn Thavisin, a spokesman, said by phone. The mall is south of Don Mueang, the domestic airport that closed on Oct. 25 after its runways were flooded and is now under as much as 2 meters of water.
The government is balancing the need to protect an area that accounts for about half of Thailand’s industrial output with demands from residents to drain water from parts of outer Bangkok where homes have been inundated for weeks.
Sukhumbhand earlier this week ordered police to protect water gates on canals after local residents tried to destroy them to ease flooding around their homes. Yingluck said today that people who destroy flood barriers may be prosecuted.
Water gates on the Sam Wa canal in northeastern Bangkok were narrowed earlier this week amid concern floodwaters may threaten the Bang Chan and Lad Krabang industrial estates, home to factories operated by Honda Motor Co. and Unilever.
The floods have already swamped seven industrial parks, halting production at factories operated by companies including Honda, Western Digital Corp. and Nidec Corp. Sony Corp. this week said supply chain disruptions in Thailand will delay the introduction of high-end NEX and Alpha cameras, and erode annual profit by 25 billion yen ($320 million).
The Bank of Thailand, which last week slashed its 2011 economic growth forecast to 2.6 percent from 4.1 percent, expects expansion to slow as the global economy weakens and the impact of the nation’s flood crisis increases, according to the minutes of its Oct. 19 meeting.
--With assistance from Daniel Ten Kate and Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok. Editors: Tony Jordan, Anand Krishnamoorthy
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