Floodwaters edged closer to central Bangkok today, reaching the northernmost station on the city’s inner-city rail system, as Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra warned the deluge may take as long as three weeks to drain.
“The amount of water is massive,” Yingluck said after visiting a flooded district on the city’s outskirts. “It may take two to three weeks for the water to drain to the sea, so we are asking people to be patient.”
Authorities completed a 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) wall of sandbags along a canal north of Bangkok, part of a network of levees that are being used to help divert a slow-moving mass of water around the city center and protect industrial zones east of the capital, Yingluck said. Thailand’s floods have claimed 506 lives since late July and shuttered 10,000 factories in provinces north of Bangkok, disrupting global supply chains.
Floodwaters that forced the closure of one of the nation’s biggest shopping mall in the Ladproa district last week have continued moving south toward the city center, and may reach Din Daeng and Victory Monument, Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said on his official Facebook page late yesterday.
The monument, erected in 1941 to commemorate the Franco-Thai War, is a major traffic intersection northeast of the city center, and a stop on Bangkok’s elevated railway network known as the skytrain. Floodwaters reached the Mochit skytrain station yesterday, though operations weren’t disrupted, according to the government’s travel website.
The Thai capital is facing a dual threat from floodwaters from the north and angry residents intent on tearing down defensive walls and the government’s so-called “big-bag” dike, Yingluck said.
“Please don’t destroy the big-bag dike and other barriers,” Yingluck wrote today on her official Facebook page. “Please think about the overall benefit so we can get through this problem together.”
Bangkok’s business districts of Silom and lower Sukhumvit Road remain dry and Suvarnabhumi Airport and public transport links are unaffected. The airport’s perimeter is protected by a 3.5-meter-high dike, Airports of Thailand Pcl said last week.
Evacuations have been ordered in almost a quarter of Bangkok’s 50 districts, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said.
Floodwaters were as deep as 60 centimeters in Ladprao, the government’s Flood Relief Operation Command said in an e-mailed statement late yesterday. Water reached TMB Bank Pcl’s headquarters on Phaholyothin Road and flooding also affected Chatuchak market, the state agency said.
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, with Bangkok at its southern tip.
The deluge spread over 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 10 million people, according to government data.
The floods have already swamped seven industrial parks, halting production at factories operated by companies including Western Digital Corp. and Nidec Corp.
The Bank of Thailand, which last month 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.
Rehabilitation efforts have begun in parts of Nakhon Sawan province and will start soon in Ayutthatya as flood waters recede, Yingluck said yesterday. The government has an initial budget of more than 100 billion baht ($3.3 billion) to help rebuild damaged areas, she said, adding that Cabinet will discuss new measures to help the economy recover on Nov. 8.
“We can’t lose the battle this time,” Army chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha told reporters Nov. 4. “If we’re defeated, the damage to the country will be tremendous. Now we’re still fighting, but the enemy is massive.”