|Yingluck told reporters Bangkok has “extremely high defences” and that it “should still be considered safe” [Reuters]|
Thailand’s prime minister has tried to reassure residents of the capital Bangkok that they will not be affected by flood waters that have killed 289 people and caused damage of at least $3bn elsewhere in the country.
“Bangkok may face some problems in areas that are on the outer sides of the irrigation dykes but water levels will not be too high,” Yingluck Shinawatra told reporters in the densely populated city on Friday.
“Inner Bangkok has extremely high defences. In conclusion, Bangkok should still be considered safe.”
Flood waters have covered a third of Thailand since July with the north, northeast and the centre of the country being the worst affected areas.
Bangkok – much of it only two metres above sea level – is threatened at the weekend as water overflows from reservoirs in the north, swelling the Chao Phraya river.
Some residents in the capital’s northern suburbs rushed to move their belongings to higher ground late on Thursday, heeding a government minister’s warning that there was a risk of flooding owing to a burst flood barrier.
But the authorities quickly backtracked, causing confusion among residents, some of whom have been piling sandbags outside their properties and buying flashlights, bottled water, instant noodles and other essential items.
Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Bangkok, said residents had been talking about the flood waters for a long time and that there was a “bit of nervous anticipation”.
“The latest we’ve been told by the Bangkok local government is that the city itself should remain dry even over this danger period which is looming, starting from Saturday night,” he said.
“There have been some evacuations … The main areas of concern are in the north and the east. These are on the outskirts of Bangkok.
“In those areas some people have had to leave their homes; some of those areas are flooded for now and the situation may indeed get worse over the weekend.”
Run-off water from the north is expected to arrive in the Bangkok area in the next few days at the same time as high estuary tides hamper the river’s flow into the sea. This may also coincide with storms and heavy rain.
“During October 15 to 18, it may be a dangerous time because water from the north will be coming in … But I confirm it has not reached a crisis stage as of this moment,” Sukhumbhand Paribatra, the governor of Bangkok, told reporters.
The country is also coming to terms with the financial cost of the floods with Prasarn Trairatvorakul, the governor of the Bank of Thailand, telling reporters that the floods had not been expected to be so severe.
“This time the industrial sector has also been affected and the damage is probably about 100 billion baht,” he added.
Kittirat Na Ranong, deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, came up with the same provisional estimate on Thursday, equivalent to $3.2bn and more than one per cent of gross domestic product.