Thai Floods Leave Residents on Rooftops as Toll Rises

Floodwaters in southern Thailand’s biggest city submerged streets, cut electricity and forced residents to their roofs, the latest deluge in a nationwide disaster that has now claimed 107 lives.

The military is sending boats to Hat Yai, a commercial center near the border with Malaysia, to rescue people who are trapped, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said today. The waters have spread to 10 provinces in the south, adding to Thailand’s worst flooding in five decades.

“The current is very strong, so small boats can’t reach the area,” Abhisit told reporters in Bangkok. “The situation should get better as the water level starts to recede.”

Cyclones and monsoon rains have swamped parts of Southeast Asia in the past month, killing hundreds of people and affecting millions more in key rice and rubber-producing regions. Rubber futures in Thailand and Singapore surged to a record today and rice has seen some of its biggest gains in two decades.

Fresh flooding and heavy rains in Vietnam’s central provinces have killed 8 people in the past week, leaving more than 80 dead since September. Cyclone Giri in Myanmar killed 45 people and displaced 81,000 others last week, according to the United Nations. Malaysia evacuated more than 19,000 people in the northern states of Kedah and Perlis because of rising floodwater, the Star newspaper reported today.

Banks, Schools Close

In Thailand’s Hat Yai, a city about 950 kilometers (590 miles) from Bangkok and with about 1 million people in its vicinity, residents scrambled to gather belongings as a Nov. 1 flash flood filled houses with about two meters (6.6 feet) of water in 15 minutes, the Nation reported. Hospitals evacuated patients and people moved to higher floors to await rescue, the Bangkok Post said.

Banks, petrol stations, schools and government offices are closed indefinitely, the Bangkok Post reported. Food and other supplies should reach areas where water levels have receded, Abhisit said today.

Flooding has hit 48 of Thailand’s 77 provinces, with the death toll rising by three to 107 people, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said in a statement today. The waters have impacted a tenth of the country’s 66 million people and damaged more than 3 percent of total agricultural land, it said.

Floodwaters have receded in 19 of Thailand’s 48 affected provinces, the state agency said in a statement on its website. Ten provinces in the country’s south have been inundated since Nov. 1 as a depression in the Gulf of Thailand moved across the region, it said.

Rubber Futures Soar

Rubber futures in Thailand, the world’s largest producer, and Singapore surged to a record on concern that a supply shortage will intensify after floods spread across major producing nations in Southeast Asia amid strong demand.

The April-delivery contract on the Singapore Commodity Exchange advanced as much as 1.6 percent to $4.14 per kilogram, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Rubber futures in Thailand surged to an all-time-high of 125.50 baht a kilogram.

Thai rice prices, the benchmark for Asia, advanced 3.6 percent to seven-month high of $521 a metric ton, according to the Thai Rice Exporters Association.

Chumporn Palm Oil Industry Pcl gained 8.8 percent to 4.68 baht, its highest close since August 2008. Thai Rubber Latex Corp., Thailand’s second-biggest publicly traded rubber producer, gained 1.3 percent to 8.05 baht in Bangkok, its highest close since Oct. 11.

‘Strong and Resilient’

Thailand’s floods may cause as much as 20.2 billion baht ($674 million) of damage and pare growth in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy by 0.2 percentage point this year, the Finance Ministry said Oct. 28. Abhisit said today the country’s economic fundamentals are “strong and resilient,” and the economy should still expand close to 8 percent this year.

The ministry’s earlier forecast didn’t take into account damage from the most recent floods, Permanent Secretary for Finance, Areepong Bhoocha-oom, said today.

“We have to wait to estimate the impact,” he said. “But growth this year should be higher than 7 percent.”

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