Bangkok Broadens Evacuation Orders as Floods Encircle Thailand’s Capital
Bangkok authorities widened an evacuation order in the city’s northern districts and moved to protect two industrial parks near the main international airport as floodwaters encircled the Thai capital.
Water levels rose yesterday around the Bang Chan and Lad Krabang industrial zones in eastern Bangkok, Industry Minister Wannarat Charnnukul said. Lad Krabang includes a factory operated by Honda Motor Co., which abandoned its full-year profit forecast last week after another plant was flooded.
“We won’t let them flood,” Wannarat told reporters in Bangkok. “We will do our best to give them full protection.”
Government officials gave similar guarantees last month, as floodwaters inundated seven industrial estates north of the capital, crippling global supply chains. The slow-moving pool of water edged closer to Bangkok’s central business district, reaching the northernmost station on the city’s elevated rail system and forcing fresh evacuations.
“A massive amount of water is still creeping into the city,” Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said today. “It’s a catastrophe that we can’t stop all the water, but we will drain as much as we can to minimize the impact.”
Residents were ordered to leave more areas of Bung Kum in the city’s northeast, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said today. Thirty of the capital’s 50 districts have been flooded, said Anuttama Amornvivat, a deputy government spokeswoman, adding that more than 620,000 families may receive compensation from the government.
PTT, Thai Air
Waters more than a meter (3.3 feet) deep have moved south through Bangkok, forcing Yingluck to evacuate her flood command last week at Don Mueang airport, which sits on the city’s northern edge and mostly handles domestic flights.
The Energy Ministry, where Yingluck relocated the command on Oct. 29, is now surrounded by floodwaters. PTT Pcl, Thailand’s biggest energy company with offices in the same complex, relocated its operations on Nov. 4, and Thai Airways International Pcl (THAI) began moving staff from its nearby head office as floodwaters rose, the company said yesterday.
Residents in flooded areas of Bangkok’s outskirts have sabotaged dikes protecting the inner city in the past few weeks to try to drain their neighborhoods of water, undermining government efforts to stem the water flow into the capital.
Suvarnabhumi Airport and public transport links are still operating normally. The airport’s perimeter is protected by a 3.5-meter-high dike, Airports of Thailand Pcl (AOT) said last week.
Bangkok officials are aiming to halt the water’s advance at the Sam Sen canal, which runs just above Victory Monument, a major traffic intersection northeast of the city center, according to Jate Sopitpongstorn, a spokesman for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. The central business areas of Silom and lower Sukhumvit are protected by two canals where water can drain out through the Chao Phraya River, he said.
Flooding 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. Bangkok sits at its southern tip.
Flooding this year has affected 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 15 percent of the country’s 67 million people, according to government data. The death toll from the disaster rose to 527, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said on its website today.
The renewed threat to factories may worsen the impact of floods that have prompted the central bank to slash its 2011 economic growth forecast to 2.6 percent. The disaster is also hitting tourism, which the government estimates accounts for 7 percent of gross domestic product.
“Lower tourist arrivals will also hurt the service sector like restaurants because the floods have come at the peak of the tourist season,” Bank of Thailand Deputy Governor Suchada Kirakul said today, adding that growth may be less than 2.6 percent this year.
Tourist arrivals may fall by as much as 800,000 this year, cutting revenue by 20 billion baht ($652 million), Suchada said. The damage to industry may reach 150 billion baht, she said, compared with an initial estimate of 110 billion baht.
Bang Chan, 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) north of Suvarnabhumi Airport, contains 91 factories, including an ice-cream plant operated by Nestle SA. (NESN) Unilever, Isuzu Motors Ltd. (7202) and Cadbury Plc are among those running 231 factories employing 48,000 workers at Lad Krabang, located 10 kilometers from the airport.
Floodwaters have inundated seven industrial estates with 891 factories that employed about 460,000 people, according to the Thai Industrial Estate and Strategic Partners Association.
The government today outlined a plan to rehabilitate devastated areas, revive investor confidence and develop infrastructure to prevent future flooding.
Thailand will seek input from industry groups and the Japanese government to help retain investment, said Virabongsa Ramangkura, the head of the Strategic Committee for Reconstruction and Future Development, without giving details on the cost or duration of any projects.
The Government Savings Bank will provide 15 billion baht of low-interest loans to the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand and companies in industrial zones to improve flood protection. The central bank will help revive the economy “by using monetary policy,” Suchada said. Bank of Thailand policy makers are scheduled to meet on Nov. 30.
Factories in Ayutthaya may reopen starting Dec. 16 as floodwaters recede and drainage efforts begin, Yingluck said after visiting the Rojana Industrial Estate today.
“We will learn from this lesson and make sure this nightmare never happens to Thailand again,” Yingluck said.
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