Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Bangkok Evacuates Two Flooding Districts
Capital Braces After Prime Minister Cites Vulnerable Barriers
BANGKOK—The governor of Thailand's capital ordered two flooded districts to be evacuated and Bangkok residents searched for dwindling food and drinking water, responding with new urgency to signals that their city could be in grave danger from surrounding flood waters.

As water that covers much of central Thailand now floods parts of Bangkok's northern reaches, Gov. Sukhumbhand Paribatra on Wednesday told residents of two of the city's 50 districts, Don Muang and Bang Phlat, to leave for shelters. "This is the first time I am using the term 'evacuation,' " the governor said, the Associated Press reported.

Wostok Press/Zuma Press

Thai flooding hit northern Bangkok, where residents of two districts were ordered to evacuate on Wednesday.

So far, Bangkok has largely been spared from the slow-motion natural disaster that has unfolded since heavy rains began in late July, causing flooding that has killed at least 373 people across Thailand. But on Wednesday, many Bangkok residents moved to leave the city, crowding bus stations and fully booking domestic flights from the city's remaining operating airport. Officials closed the Don Muang airport in the capital's north on Tuesday, for what is expected to be the rest of the month, as waters rose nearby.

Stores for days have displayed messages apologizing for supply-chain disruptions. Rice, noodles, diapers, powdered milk and cat food are running low, as earlier rounds of panic-buying have emptied shelves.

Water-delivery companies say they have suspended operations because their filtration plants north of Bangkok have been swamped.

The turning point in the capital's mood came on Tuesday, when Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra warned that the city center could be inundated if its stressed flood defenses buckle.

In a televised address, she said the volume of floodwater was greater than expected and said that barriers now keeping water out of the city aren't guaranteed to hold, raising the danger that floods could swamp the city center as well as more vulnerable outlying areas.

"The power of the water is more than the flood barriers and water gates can withstand," said Ms. Yingluck, facing her toughest test since being elected in July.

In some places, she said, the floodwater could reach a level of a meter and a half if the barriers break. But she emphasized that government agencies are working hard to prevent that from happening, with special attention being paid to protecting royal palaces and key infrastructure.

Bangkok's central business district remained dry on Wednesday. But water continued to rise in outer districts and along the banks of the Chao Phraya River that runs through Bangkok's historic old town. Roads near the city's Grand Palace, a tourist landmark, were partly underwater.

The government has declared a holiday from Thursday through Monday in affected provinces, including Bangkok, to help people get to grips with the extent of the crisis and called on private businesses not involved in the supply and production of key goods and services to do the same.—Patrick Barta, Wilawan Watcharasakwet and Phisanu Phromchanya contributed to this article.
Write to James Hookway at

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