Floodwaters edged closer to central Bangkok today, forcing the evacuation of more districts, as authorities rushed to repair damaged dikes to save the inner city from inundation.
Evacuations have been ordered in almost a quarter of Bangkok’s 50 districts, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said today, after telling people to leave Bang Khae, an area on the western edge of the city. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asked residents living outside the city’s flood barriers not to damage levees to save their own homes.
“We all feel your suffering,” Yingluck told reporters today. “Destroying levees along canals doesn’t reduce the floodwaters but causes water to spread. The government has plans to assist people who have been affected.”
Bangkok officials are struggling to maintain a system of dikes, canals and sandbag barriers designed to divert a slow-moving mass of floodwater around the city center. Floods that spread over 63 of Thailand’s 77 provinces over the past three months have killed 437 people and shuttered 10,000 factories north of Bangkok, disrupting global supply chains.
Yingluck yesterday ordered water gates to be narrowed on the Sam Wa canal in northeastern Bangkok amid concern spillover may flood the Bang Chun and Lat Krabang industrial zones, home to factories operated by Honda Motor Co. and Unilever. Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra this week asked police to protect the levee from local residents who damaged part of it to ease flooding around their homes.
The government is balancing the need to protect an area that accounts for about half of the nation’s industrial output with demands from residents to drain water from parts of outer Bangkok where homes have been inundated for weeks.
Thailand’s flood crisis began in late July, when monsoon rains 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 the bottom. Rainfall this year has exceeded the average by about 40 percent, according to government data.
Flooding is mainly limited to northern, eastern and western areas of Bangkok and low-lying places near canals. The business districts of Silom and lower Sukhumvit remain dry and Suvarnabhumi Airport and public transport links are unaffected.
The death toll from the disaster rose to 437, according to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation. Twenty-five provinces are still affected by flooding, the agency said on its website today.
Water levels in Bangkok’s northern districts rose yesterday, the Flood Relief Operation Command said in an e-mailed statement.
“Residents in some areas of Chatuchak, Nong Kaem, Klong Sam Wa, and Ladprao have been advised to evacuate to safer areas,” the flood-center said.
Siam Commercial Bank Pcl, Thailand’s third-biggest company by market value, started sending workers home as floodwaters rose around its headquarters in Chatuchak, which is also the location of Bangkok’s most popular weekend market.
“The water is about 20 centimeters high at the main road in front of our office,” spokeswoman Ongorn Abhakorn Na Ayuthaya said today by phone. “We normally have about 3,000 staff working at the headquarters. Now we have only about 1,000 who are involved in critical roles.” Staff levels may be reduced to 500 if the situation worsens, she said.
Unilever and Chevron Corp., which have offices in the same area, are allowing some employees to work from home, the companies said in separate e-mailed statements.
Yingluck said floodwaters have risen in Thonburi, on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River, because barriers are leaking at 10 different points. Repairs should be completed by Nov. 13, before the next series of peak tides, she said.
Yingluck said water has receded in provinces north of Bangkok, where floods swamped seven industrial parks, halting production at factories operated by companies including Honda, Western Digital Corp. and Nidec Corp. Sony Corp. yesterday 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 released yesterday. Thailand’s inflation rate held above 4 percent for the seventh straight month in October as food costs climbed, government data released Nov. 1 show.
Thailand’s government will start pumping floodwater from the Rojana industrial estate in Ayutthaya province on Nov. 7, Permanent Secretary for Industry Witoon Simachokedee said earlier this week.
“The drainage should be done within two weeks and the companies can start to get into their properties to fix machinery,” Deputy Prime Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said yesterday.
Rehabilitation of the Nava Nakorn Industrial Estate will start on Nov. 15 and take 45 days, Nipit Arunvongse Na Ayudhya, managing director of Nava Nakorn Pcl, said yesterday.
“The situation should be back to normal by New Year or early January,” he said. “Still, it may take a few more months for some plants, depending on their businesses.”