|250 Burmese migrant workers have sought aid in Bangkok shelters [Reuters]
Residents in northeastern Bangkok have destroyed part of a canal floodgate in an attempt to divert floodwaters away from their homes amid allegations that authorities are allowing the outskirts of the city to flood to protect central areas.
Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from the Thai capital on Wednesday, said residents had smashed through the barrier “with their bare hands” in the hope the action would drain the water from their homes.
Police stationed 400 officers to guard floodgates which city official say are essential to prevent the centre of the city and industrial areas from being flooded.
Local officials had said that central Bangkok would be largely safe from flooding, but with anger mounting among those outside the capital and with the threat of further damage to floodgates, our correspondent says that is no longer the case.
The anger around the flood gates has led to a political battle between the city and federal governments.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has ordered a metre of the flood gates open despite objections from officials in the city who fear the rediverted waters will reach two nearby industrial estates.
With water levels along the Chao Phraya – the river that flows through Bangkok – reaching 3.3 metres, its highest level in days, authorities say keeping the floodgates closed is necessary to prevent waters reaching central areas of a city that is home to 12 million people.
Risk of disease
Bangkok has so far suffered no fatalities as a consequence of the flooding, but Thai authorities on Wednesday raised the death toll since floodwaters inundated large areas of the country in July to 427, an increase of 42 from figures reported a day earlier.
Though the capital’s central business district, which accounts for nearly 41 per cent of the nation’s GDP, has remained largely unaffected, there are renewed fears of disease in the flood-ravaged areas to the north and west of Bangkok.
In those areas, water that has collected over weeks is now filled with rubbish and sewage, greatly increasing the risk for water-borne diseases.
The rises in water levels and increased chance of disease have finally pushed thousands who were reluctant to leave their properties unguarded to seek refuge in less affected areas of the country.
Migrant workers’ plight
Daranee Putakhom, a Bangkok resident tells the Reuters news agency that despite fears that she may join the ranks of the 650,000 people rendered jobless by flooding, she is finally prepared to leave the city. “I gave up about my work for now to save my life first,” said the 28-year-old office worker.
For migrant workers from Myanmar however, there are few options.
Some 250 migrants have sought aid in shelters, but tens of thousands are said to be affected by the flooding.
“I can’t go home because there is no work there. The flooding (in Thailand) might go down soon and then there should be work for us,” Show Tae, a 34-year-old migrant worker told Reuters.