Advancing floods test Bangkok's defences
Authorities declare five-day holiday as thousands move to higher ground and Bangkok's domestic airport is shut down.
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2011 20:22

Authorities in Thailand say floodwaters have begun to enter the north side of Bangkok's secondary airport, another sign of the nation's deepening crisis that has killed 366 people over the last three months.

The advancing waters shut down commercial flights on Tuesday at Don Muang airport, which is used mostly for domestic flights, and further eroded public confidence in the government's ability to defend Bangkok's nine million people. Yingluck Shinawatra, the Thai prime minister, has yet to declare a state of emergency.

Patee Sarasin, chief executive officer of Nok Air CEO, said on Tuesday his budget airline was halting operations until November 1 at Don Muang. Sarasin said flights would be directed to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, the country's main international gateway.

A spokesman at Don Muang confirmed that water had entered the northern section of the airport that also houses the government's flood crisis centre.

"We are thinking of moving it. Although there is no flooding inside it, we are still facing transport disruptions out there. We will discuss this issue at the cabinet meeting today," said Yingluck in an address earlier on Tuesday.

Holiday declared

In another decision, the Thai government declared the five days between October 27 and October 31 to be a special holiday in parts of the country. According to some reports, more than two million people in Thailand have been affected by the flooding.

Chumphol Silpa-Archa, the minister of tourism, said after a cabinet meeting that there would be a holiday in 21 provinces including Bangkok, creating a five-day break for schools, businesses and government offices.

Thousands of Bangkok residents have been moving to higher ground, as floodwaters threatened areas closer to the commercial district.

Late on Monday, Suhumbhand Paribatra, governor of Bangkok, warned residents in the northwestern Bang Phlat district to move their belongings to higher ground after water in the Chao Phraya river crept into the area through a subway construction site.

"I would like to ask people in Bang Phlad district to move your valuables and other belongings to higher ground for your own safety," Paribatra said.

Temporary shelters

The flood crisis centre said water levels in provinces north of Bangkok were stable or subsiding, but added that massive run-off was still bearing down on Bangkok as waters flowed south towards the Gulf of Thailand. Authorities have declared seven of the capital's 50 districts at risk.

North of Bangkok, whole provinces have been inundated, knocking out a series of industrial areas and putting at least 640,000 people temporarily out of work.

Prominent Japanese companies such as Toyota, Sony and Nikon have had to close down operations. According to estimates, the floods have caused economic damage worth $6bn.

In what has been identified as Thailand's worst flooding in five decades, more than 100,000 people have been forced to live in temporary shelters and about 700,000 are seeking medical attention.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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