Bangkok flood barriers 'holding up'
Thai military and volunteers continue their efforts to stop Thailand's worst floods in decades from inundating capital.
Last Modified: 16 Oct 2011 09:06
US marines have been sent to Thailand as part of a survey team to assess how to help Thais cope with flooding [AFP]

Relief workers have reinforced barriers to help defend Thailand's capital, Bangkok, from the country's worst floods in half a century and efforts were stepped up to protect a huge industrial estate to the city's north.

Neighbouring Cambodia has also been hit hard, with the loss of almost 250 people and 18 out of 23 provinces affected.

Despite heavy rain in parts of Bangkok late on Saturday, areas inside the defensive system of flood barriers and canals have so far been spared the flooding that has devastated a third of the country, killing at least 297 people and causing about $3bn in damage.

On Sunday, the focus was on Nava Nakorn industrial estate in Pathum Thani province north of Bangkok, which is standing in the way of one flow of water towards the capital.

Thai media reported that some 600 soldiers and workers from the estate, Thailand's oldest with more than 200 factories, were working round the clock to strengthen its walls and divert water.

Nation TV reported that water was just 10cm below the top of the estate's 4.5 metres high wall.

"We will protect strategic areas and the heart of the economy such as industrial zones, the central part of all provinces and the Thai capital as well as Suvarnabhumi Airport, industrial estates and evacuation centres"

- Yingluck Shinawatra, Thai PM

The north, northeast and centre of Thailand have been worst hit and Bangkok - much of it only two metres above sea level - is at risk as water overflows from reservoirs in the north, swelling the Chao Phraya river that winds through the densely populated and low-lying city.

The river was reported to be at a record level of 2.15 metres at one point on Saturday, but the embankment wall running along it in inner Bangkok is at least 2.5 metres high and has been raised along vulnerable stretches.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has sought to reassure residents they should be safe but people have still stocked up on bottled water, instant noodles, rice and canned goods, emptying shelves in some major markets.

Many have parked their cars in elevated garages and piled sandbags in front of shop-houses and homes.

"We will protect strategic areas and the heart of the economy such as industrial zones, the central part of all provinces and the Thai capital as well as Suvarnabhumi Airport, industrial estates and evacuation centres," Yingluck said on Saturday, referring to Bangkok's main international airport.

The United States sent a military transport aircraft from Japan carrying thousands of sandbags and 10 US marines who are part of a survey team to assess how to help Thailand cope with the flooding, the US embassy said late on Saturday.

Cambodia's worst floods

In Cambodia, flood waters continued to inundate parts of the country, forcing some residents in the capital Phnom Penh to travel by raft and boat.

The worst floods in more than a decade and landslides from monsoon rains have so far killed at least 247 people, affected about 1.5 million people, and has covered 960,000 acres of rice paddies.

Villages along the Mekong river have been
hit hard by flood waters [EPA]

Around half of the casualties were children, unable to swim to safety after flash floods.

Eighteen out of Cambodia's 23 provinces are suffering the impact of the worst flooding to hit the country in more than a decade, the Council of Ministers' spokesman said. The government has not yet called for international assistance.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen last week cancelled the Water Festival, the year's biggest celebration, which was due to take place in the capital between November 9 and 11, arguing that the funds would be better spent on flood relief.

"If we don't spend the state budget for the preparations in Phnom Penh ... we can save some money to improve the living standards of our people and repair the damage," Hun Sen said in a televised speech.

He also said the precariously high water level of the Tonle Sap river that flows through the city would present a "high risk" to revellers.

The festival marks the reversal of the flow between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers and usually draws two million visitors to the capital to enjoy dragon boat races, fireworks and concerts.

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