Thai Floods Cause Dike Breakage, Threatening Area Village

Residents of Thailand’s Munag Ake village are being urged to evacuate the area early Tuesday morning, according to Thailand’s Flood Relief Operations Center. The center’s director said parts of a dike at Tambon Lak Hok, Muang District, Pathum Thani province have broken and a mass of water is expected to flow into the village.

Flood waters could reach almost five feet (1.5 meters) in the village. The FROC said the Royal Thai Armed Forces will have vehicles at Rangsit University in Munag Ake village and will be moving residents out of the area.

In addition, the Thai Cabinet announced Tuesday public holidays for the end of the month due to anticipated high tides, which could further devastate the flood-ravaged country. The holidays will be from Thursday to next Monday and will be effective in 21 provinces that are still under water, including Bangkok and its suburban provinces, a government spokeswoman said. “The government would like to give time to people in affected areas to prepare for floods during high tide periods between (October) 28 to 30. Some people who have houses outside Bangkok could be able to live there during flood period,” said Thitima Chaiseang, the government spokeswoman. (CNN)

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra urged employers in both the private and public sectors to allow time off for staff affected by the floods. In addition to allowing time off, Thailand’s Public Health Minister Wittaya Buranasiri has ordered health units to be help ease the stress of residents. He said there are about 100,000 people suffering from stress related to the flooding.

Also, starting Tuesday, the CEO of Nok Air announced the airline is canceling flights in and out of Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport until October 31 due to the “flood crisis.” Pate Sarasin, CEO of Nok Air, posted a Twitter message saying “the water level is now at a critical area at the northern part of the runway.” Nok Air is allowing customers to change their flights free of charge. (CNN)

On Monday, floodwaters in Bangkok reached Don Muang Airport, one of the Thai capital’s two main airports and home to the flood relief operation command, according to a governor. In addition to Don Muang, residents in five other areas should prepare for floods, move their belongings to upper floors and take shelter at evacuation centers, Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said in a news conference on Monday.

The airport houses the government’s recently established emergency Flood Relief Operations Center, and one of its terminals has been converted into an overcrowded shelter filled with tents for about 4,000 people who fled waterlogged homes.
Somboon Klinchanhom, a 43-year-old civil servant who took refuge there last week, was preparing to move after authorities said the terminal had become too crowded and thousands of people displaced there would be relocated. “I thought it would be safe and well-protected,” Somboon said of the airport, as she packed her belongings again. (CBC)

The two main carriers based at Don Muang announced they were suspending operations and diverting flights to Suvarnabhumi because of the flood threat. They are Thai Orient Airlines and Nok Air, which said it was halting flights until Nov. 1. Capt. Kantpat Mangalasiri, the airport’s director, said Don Muang’s commercial runways would be closed until Nov. 1 to ensure safe aircraft operations.

Thai air force flights carrying relief supplies were continuing on a military runway that is still open, air force spokesman Montol Suchukorn said. He said floodwaters had breached the military’s air base, but the runway remains protected by flood barriers. Last week, the air force moved 20 planes from Don Muang as a precaution. The government’s flood relief command will remain at the airport for now since it is still accessible by road, spokesman Wim Rungwattanjinda said. He said the government expects floodwaters will sweep through the main parts of Don Muang by Friday, but would not rise above one metre.

Thammasat University’s gymnasium, which has been used as an evacuation center, is also flooded and without electricity and is itself being evacuated, the governor added. As a remedy, about 4,000 people will be used to Rajamangala Stadium in central Bangkok with the help of 300 to 400 volunteers, according to the governor. In the east, the industrial estates of Lat Krabang and Bang Chan remained under threat, and volunteers were sought for help with sandbagging. The governor urged the public not to panic and to follow his reports closely.

Protecting Bangkok was a priority because it comprises the economic heart of Thailand, Prime Minister Yingluck told CNN Sunday. “But it doesn’t mean we have no concern for the people who are suffering from the flooding,” she added.

The decision to divert water through canals in Bangkok means parts of the city and its surrounding suburbs, such as Rangsit, are flooded. Residents have resorted to moving out of flooded homes by boat or anything that could float – or wading through water with plastic bags of belongings balanced on their heads or pets tucked into clothes.

The government has called the flooding the worst to afflict the nation in half a century and said some areas might require more than a month before waters recede. More high tides are expected in the coming week, which could cause rivers to back up, further raising water levels, according to Thailand’s Flood Relief Operations Command.
The government has set up more than 1,700 shelters nationwide, and more than 113,000 people have taken refuge. Many residents waded through the dirty water in the capital in recent days, as they made a desperate attempt to save their belongings.

The flooding has already killed 356 people, with nearly 9 million others affected, authorities said. Overall damage from the floods has risen and could top $6 billion, with the worst yet to come as the waters destroy shops and paralyze factories nationwide, the Thai Finance Ministry said. Thailand derives a significant portion of its revenue from tourism, which has been hurt by the flooding.

On Tuesday, the Thai cabinet announced a $10.5 billion fund to help rebuild the country – mainly aimed at small and medium businesses, small vendors and individuals, reported Reuters news agency. “If they get back to normal quickly, it will help push the economy forward,” the agency quoted Finance Minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala as saying of the business. (BBC)

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