Bloomberg News

Bangkok Orders More Evacuations as Floods Encircle Thai Capital

November 07, 2011

Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Bangkok authorities widened an evacuation order in the city’s northern districts and moved to protect two industrial parks near the main international airport as floodwaters encircled the Thai capital.

Water levels rose yesterday around the Bang Chan and Lad Krabang industrial zones in eastern Bangkok, Industry Minister Wannarat Charnnukul said. Lad Krabang includes a factory operated by Honda Motor Co., which abandoned its full-year profit forecast last week after another plant was flooded.

“We won’t let them flood,” Wannarat told reporters in Bangkok. “We will do our best to give them full protection.”

Government officials gave similar guarantees last month, as floodwaters inundated seven industrial estates north of the capital, crippling global supply chains. The slow-moving pool of water edged closer to Bangkok’s central business district yesterday, reaching the northernmost station on the city’s elevated rail system and forcing fresh evacuations.

Residents were told to leave more areas of Lad Prao in northern Bangkok, and people in Bung Kum and Huay Kwang districts were told to move their belongings to higher ground as floodwaters approached, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said. All schools in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani and four districts of Nakhon Patom were ordered to remain closed until Nov. 21, according to the government’s Flood Relief Operations Command.

Waters more than a meter deep have moved south through Bangkok, forcing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to evacuate her flood operations command last week at Don Mueang airport, which sits on the city’s northern edge and mostly handles domestic flights. The government has ordered evacuations in more than a third of the capital’s 50 districts, mostly northern, eastern and western areas.

PTT, Thai Air

The Energy Ministry, where Yingluck relocated the command on Oct. 29, is now surrounded by floodwaters. PTT Pcl, Thailand’s biggest energy company with offices in the same complex, relocated its operations on Nov. 4, and Thai Airways International Pcl began moving staff from its nearby head office as floodwaters rose, the company said yesterday.

Residents in flooded areas of Bangkok’s outskirts have sabotaged dikes protecting the inner city in the past few weeks to try to drain their neighborhoods of water, undermining government efforts to stem the water flow into the capital.

The renewed threat to factories may worsen the impact of floods that have prompted the central bank to slash its 2011 economic growth forecast and eroded the earnings outlook for companies including Sony Corp. and Western Digital Corp.

Unilever, Isuzu

“Water hasn’t entered the Bang Chan estate yet because we have a wall to protect it,” Wannarat said. “We have prepared 16 pumps to drain water if it leaks in and will add 10 more if needed to combat the floods.”

Bang Chan, 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) north of Suvarnabhumi Airport, contains 91 factories, including an ice-cream plant operated by Nestle SA. Unilever, Isuzu Motors Ltd. and Cadbury Plc are among those running 231 factories employing 48,000 workers at Lad Krabang, located 10 kilometers from the airport.

Floodwaters have inundated seven industrial estates with 891 factories that employed about 460,000 people, according to the Thai Industrial Estate and Strategic Partners Association. Sukhumbhand today ordered residents around Bang Chan to evacuate.

“The overall flooding situation remains very bad,” Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra told reporters yesterday. “As long as more water is flowing into Bangkok, the situation won’t be resolved.”

Airport Unaffected

Suvarnabhumi and public transport links are still operating normally. The airport’s perimeter is protected by a 3.5-meter- high dike, Airports of Thailand Pcl said last week.

Yingluck yesterday promised flood victims payments of between 5,000 baht ($163) and 30,000 baht for any house that has been inundated for more than seven days. She also proposed waiving all tolls on Bangkok highways and bringing in more garbage trucks to pick up trash.

“We won’t ignore people,” she said while visiting flood victims in a northern Bangkok district. “We will try to rehabilitate and bring the situation back to normal as fast as possible.”

Thailand’s Board of Investment will give tax incentives to companies affected by flooding and tax waivers on machinery imports, Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said.

Bangkok officials are aiming to halt the water’s advance at the Sam Sen canal, which runs just above Victory Monument, a major traffic intersection northeast of the city center and a stop on Bangkok’s Skytrain elevated railway network, according to Jate Sopitpongstorn, a spokesman for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. The central business areas of Silom and lower Sukhumvit are protected by two canals where water can drain out through the Chao Phraya river, he said.

Rehabilitation

The Bank of Thailand, which slashed its 2011 economic growth forecast to 2.6 percent from 4.1 percent last month, 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.

Rehabilitation efforts have begun in parts of Nakhon Sawan province and will start soon in Ayutthaya as flood waters recede, Yingluck said Nov. 5. The government has an initial budget of more than 100 billion baht to help rebuild damaged areas, she said, adding that Cabinet will discuss new measures to help the economy recover on Nov. 8.

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. Bangkok sits at its southern tip.

Flooding this year has affected 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 15 percent of the country’s 67 million people, according to government data.

--With assistance from Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok. Editor: Tony Jordan

To contact the reporters on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at dtenkate@bloomberg.net; Suttinee Yuvejwattana in Bangkok at suttinee1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Brinsley at jbrinsley@bloomberg.net


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