Battle to keep capital dry
BANGKOK, 19 October 2011 – Bangkok remains dry and officials say there is a good chance the inner city and tourist districts will stay that way, but flooding in Pathum Thani provinces, north of the capital is spreading in an arc eastwards, overflowing canals that link to the capital’s eastern suburbs.
For most communities, just 2 km north of the capital’s boundary, the battle was lost yesterday. They fought a losing battle for a month with limited resources and were unable to stop the flood water, two to three metres deep, from wrecking their homes and communities.
Future Park Rangsit, shopping malls and the mega supermarket Tesco are flooded or marooned along with communities stretching far north of Bangkok that are now under water. Floods have now cut off access to highway 1, the main route north. Only large trucks and buses can get through, but the journey is tedious with long traffic jams all the way to the intersection with highway 32 a good 30 km to the north.
Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention Mitigation reports that 62 provinces across the country have suffered flooding while 27 provinces are still inundated.
The death toll has risen to 317 in the affected provinces, many of them elderly people.
The run-off from the North has raised the height of the Chao Phraya River at Nakhon Sawan to 58 cm above the embankment.
Residents in Bangkok can thank the efforts of volunteers who have been filling sandbags in front of Rittiyawannalai School 2 in Sai Mai district a far north suburb of Bangkok. They succeeded in raising the width and the height of the 6 km dyke to stop floods overflowing into the lower Hok Wa Canal.
By yesterday evening, 1,500 to 1,600 volunteers mostly local residents, teachers, students, soldiers and officials from seven Bangkok district offices had filled 800,000 sandbags that were used to raise the barrier.
Bangkok governor, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, confirmed that it was imperative that the barrier at canals linked to Pathum Thani province be increased by another 30 cm near Klong Song Road and at Sai Mai Soi 85 to secure the city.
“It will take another three or four days to raise the dykes and another million sandbags will be needed to ensure we are prepared for the next high tide”.
He added: “The risk for Bangkok is present at every temporary dyke, no matter what we do. The dykes have to be secure and protected. If we are not on our guard there could be a breach with devastating results.”
So far, all tourist destinations are open and accessible by road, but travellers intending to visit Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai should travel by air rather than rely on overland travel options such as tour buses.
The motorway and elevated toll way linking Bangkok to eastern seaboard towns and resorts are open.
Tour buses are operating to the Northeast, but there are delays due to floods on highway 1 between Bangkok to almost Saraburi.
All train services to the North have stopped except for evacuation trains that operate between Don Mueang and Bang Pa-In station in Ayutthaya province. They transfer displaced residents to Don Mueang Airport that has emergency accommodation for up to 2,000 people.
Northeast trains are using a different line to avoid Ayutthaya province.
In Ayutthaya’s Bang Pa-In district, Highway no 32 is impassable at the 5 km marker in front of Hi-tech Industrial Estate. Previously, it was under water at the 25 km marker. It is not advisable to drive north either on the 340 or highways 1 and 32.
Travellers can check the flood status on roads at http://maintenance.doh.go.th/test.html.