By boat, truck and bamboo raft, residents evacuated Bangkok’s outer suburbs on Thursday as rising floods — which have claimed close to 400 lives across Thailand since July — closed in on the centre of the capital.
PM Yingluck Shinawatra, apparently close to tears as she briefed the media on Thailand’s worst flooding for half a century, warned Bangkok’s 12 million residents “we’re fighting against the forces of nature” and said flood waters were damaging several of the city’s dykes.
Residents of Sai Mai district were told to evacuate to safer ground and Don Muang airport, location of the government’s flood relief operations centre, was inundated.
“What we can do now is to manage it, so that it flows slowly, otherwise everybody will suffer,” Yingluck told reporters, her voice trembling. “I haven’t cried and I won’t. I'll be strong to solve this problem for the Thai people.”
The floods, caused in part by unusually heavy monsoon, have already killed 373 people in Thailand and disrupted the lives of nearly 2.5 million, until now mostly in the north and central provinces. The rains have also killed dozens in neighbouring Cambodia and Burma.
By Thursday night, floodwaters had overwhelmed seven of Bangkok’s 50 districts, mostly on the northern outskirts. Roads became rivers, and homes and businesses were swamped. Relief agencies believe most if not all of the city could be flooded with waters rising between 20 cm and 2 metres in the coming days. High tides this weekend are likely to place more pressure on the city’s limited flood defences and could swell the Chao Phraya river to overflow flood barriers lining its banks.
“The mayor of Bangkok has said that of the 140 evacuation centres that have been set up only a quarter are being used and none are full,” Matt Cochrane, spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross in Bangkok, told the Guardian. “It is all about waiting and what is coming. This is the beginning of the potential humanitarian crisis for Bangkok. There is going to be water in most or all of the city. It won’t be a tsunami, it is more likely to be a gradual rise.”
- The Guardian