Millions of residents told to evacuate their homes as waters creep closer to the centre of the Thai capital.
The complex networks of flood defences erected to shield Bangkok from the country’s worst floods in nearly 60 years have held as coastal high tides hit their peak, although areas on the outskirts of the Thai capital remained submerged along with much of the countryside.
Yingluck Shinawatra, the Thai prime minister, said the floodwaters had now started to recede, after killing almost 400 people, submerging entire towns and closing hundreds of factories over the last two months.
“We have the good news that the situation in the central region has improved as runoff water gradually decreased,” she said.
“I thank people and urge them to be more patient in case this weekend is significant because of the high tide.”
The high tides that pushed up the Chao Phraya River from the Gulf of Thailand peaked just after 9am and in the late evening.
Al Jazeera’s Aela Callem, reporting from Bangkok, said the situation will remain precarious for “several weeks” and that additional challenges are still ahead.
“All eyes will be on how the government focuses on the recovery effort,” Callem said. “The government doesn’t want to make people feel like they have been forgotten.”
Shinawatra, who previously warned the floods could last for weeks, said the authorities had expedited the flow of runoff water from the north through canals in the east and west of the capital.
“If everyone works hard … then the floodwater in Bangkok will start to recede in the first week of November,” she said in a weekly radio and television address to the nation on Saturday.
She said the overall flood situation in central parts of Thailand had improved and volumes of water flowing through the Chao Phraya river, Bangkok’s main waterway, had decreased.
PM urges trust
Shinawatra also urged Thais and and the international community to trust the country’s ability to deal with and recover from the floods.
Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay reports from Bangkok
“Please be confident in Thailand, we also have very good system in Bangkok,” she said.
“But Bangkok is the last destination to the ocean, that’s why now is the peak and worst in Thailand.
“So, hopefully, next week will start to settle and back to normal soon.”
Fear had gripped the capital city early on Saturday as residents waited for the high tide.
Overflows so far have lightly inundated riverside streets from Chinatown to the famed Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The white-walled royal Grand Palace was dry, less than 24 hours after being ringed by ankle-deep water, and the landmark remained open to tourists.
Many visitors carried parasols to protect themselves from the blistering sunshine.
Tens of thousands of people had fled ahead of the high tide. The floods in Thailand have killed at least 377 people since mid-July.
It is estimated to have disrupted the lives of nearly 2.2 million people over the past few months.