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Epic Floods Leave more than 500 People Dead in Thailand


Thailand's black flood waters march on as death toll surges past 500

The Associated Press, Nov. 6, 2011

BANGKOK — The nationwide death toll from Thailand's worst floods in half a century climbed past 500 Sunday, as the polluted
black water continued its march into Bangkok and authorities ordered a spate of new evacuations in the sprawling capital.

Floodwaters also poured over a road running underneath the city's Mo Chit Skytrain station, the northernmost stop on Bangkok's elevated subway system. The road was still passable, and train service has not yet been affected, but the inundation illustrates how far flooding has progressed into the city and how powerless the government is to stop it.

Mo Chit is located just a few miles north of the city's central business district, which has remained dry so far. Flooding has also reached roads at three subway stops in northern Bangkok, but all remained open Sunday.

Relentless rainfall has pummeled vast swaths of Thailand since late July, swamping the country and killing 506 people, according to the latest government statistics. Most of those killed have drowned, while a handful of people have died from flood-related electrocutions.

No deaths have been reported in Bangkok. The nearby province of Ayutthaya, which has been submerged for more than one month, has the highest toll with 90 reported dead.

Floodwaters have begun receding in some provinces north of the capital, and a major cleanup is planned in Ayutthaya this week. But the runoff has massed around Bangkok and completely submerged some of the city's outer neighborhoods.

On Sunday, Bangkok Gov. Sukhumbhand Paribatra ordered another wave of evacuations in several neighborhoods in the west and east. In all, evacuations have been ordered in nine of the capital's 50 districts — up from eight a day earlier. Seven other districts are partially inundated and residents in parts of those have also been told to leave.

Also Sunday, floodwaters began approaching a main road near the city's Mo Chit bus terminal, a major gateway to northern Thailand. The bus station remained open, though, traffic police chief Uthaiwan Kaewsa-ard said.

Mo Chit is close to the famed Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok's largest outdoor shopping zone. The market, a major tourist attraction, was officially open Sunday. But with water pouring past its eastern edge for the second day, most vendors and customers stayed away.

In the last few days, floods have also begun moving southward in adjacent Lad Phrao, a district studded with office towers, condominiums and a popular shopping mall.

On Friday, workers completed a 3.7-mile flood wall made from massive, hastily assembled sandbags in an effort to divert some of the water flowing toward central Bangkok. But large amounts of water are already beyond that wall, and officials say that besides a network of canals and underground drainage tunnels, there are no more barriers preventing water from pushing south into the heart of the city.

Over the past two decades, Bangkok's much enlarged and improved drainage system has increasingly been able to siphon off water during monsoon seasons with average rainfall. But amid Thailand's worst flooding since World War II, that system is being put to its greatest test yet.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told a radio audience that a plan to be put before the Cabinet on Tuesday would allocate 100 billion baht ($3.3 billion) for post-flood reconstruction.

Yingluck's government has come under fire for failing to predict the threat to the capital. Residents also have been frustrated by widely different assessments of the flooding situation from the prime minister, Bangkok's governor and the country's top water experts and officials.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thai flooding closes prison, factories; GDP to suffer

 Reuters, Oct. 6, 2011
AYUTTHAYA, Thailand (Reuters) - Flooding forced the evacuation of hundreds of inmates from a prison in central Thailand on Thursday and a prominent think tank slashed its forecast for economic growth this year as farmland was inundated and a big industrial estate had to close.
At least 244 people have been killed in floods in Thailand since mid-July, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said. Another 167 have died in neighboring Cambodia and 15 in Vietnam in what a United Nations agency said was the worst flooding to hit parts of Southeast Asia in 50 years.
"The full extent of damage has yet to occur, in particular the full impact of water flow from the upstream Mekong River," the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement

In Ayutthaya, about 105 km (65 miles) north of Bangkok, 1,700 prisoners were evacuated from a prison in the old town, clinging to a rope stretched between its gates and a heavy truck as flood water swirled around them.

Somsak Rangsiyopas, deputy director-general of the Correction Department, said water nearly 2 meters (six feet) high had inundated the prison and the area around it.
"We had to the use rope to get people out of the prison due to the strong current," he said, adding that the prisoners were being transferred to nearby jails.

This week, the 400-year-old Chai Wattanaram temple in Ayutthaya, a World Heritage Site, was flooded.

A big industrial estate in the area with more than 40 factories, many of them Japanese-owned, had to close on Wednesday because of flooding, newspapers reported.
The Center for Economic and Business Forecasting, part of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said on Thursday it had cut its forecast for gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year to 3.6 percent from 4.4 percent because of the floods.

It estimated the negative impact at between 1.0 and 1.3 percentage points of GDP but said that was offset a little by continued strength in exports, which it now expected to grow 22.6 percent this year rather than 16.1 percent.

Dams are struggling to cope with the flow of water caused by unusually heavy monsoon rain, which normally falls from August to October.

Director general of the Irrigation Department, Chalit Damrongsak, said water would have to be released from the Bhumibol dam in Tak province 420 km (260 miles) northwest of Bangkok, which was 97 percent full, even though that would add to problems further down the Ping river.

That river flows into the Chao Phraya, which flows through Bangkok. The capital has seen only minor flooding and authorities say the inner city should be safe.

Weather forecasters in Vietnam said flooding in the Mekong Delta should peak in the next four days.

At least 15 people, including nine children, have died due to floods since late September in Vietnam's central and southern provinces, state media said.

Dozens of houses had been swept away in the Delta and 27,700 more were under water, state-run news website VnExpress said.

In Cambodia, 167 people have died in floods and more than 160,000 homes were under water, the Cambodian National Disaster Management Committee (CNDMC) said.

© Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved.