Rush to drain floodwater and protect Bangkok

A flooded street in Bangkok last Saturday. Last weekend, the capital was drenched by rainfall not seen in over 20 years. 22 Thai provinces that have been flooded in at least one district, according to a report issued by the Royal Irrigation Departmen
A flooded street in Bangkok last Saturday. Last weekend, the capital was drenched by rainfall not seen in over 20 years. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

With more rain expected, Thai officials try to keep capital flood-free for royal cremation

With a nervous eye on rain clouds, Thai officials are rushing to drain water inundating provinces north of Bangkok while trying to spare the capital the worst of the deluge, with only a week to go before a cremation ceremony for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej next Thursday.

Villages downstream of dams being filled fast by unusually heavy rain have been bearing the brunt of the floods, which have claimed at least six lives in recent days.

Houses along the Nam Pong River in north-eastern Khon Kaen province were soaked by 1m of water, said state broadcaster NBT. In Ayutthaya, some 70km north of Bangkok, inundation has affected 90,000 people as water flowed beyond areas traditionally used as reservoirs during seasonal floods.

Local residents, piling up sandbags to improvise dykes while wading through knee-deep water, are complaining about skin irritation and damaged crops.

Twenty-two of Thailand's 76 provinces - including Chai Nat and Sing Buri in the Chao Phraya River basin - have been flooded in at least one district, according to a report issued by the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) yesterday morning.

The Thai Meteorological Department warned at 5pm yesterday the "thundershowers, gusty winds and isolated heavy rain" due to hit the north-east from Saturday would extend to eastern and central Thailand - including Bangkok - by Sunday, just before the cremation ceremony in Bangkok for the late king.

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    Thai provinces that have been flooded in at least one district, according to a report issued by the Royal Irrigation Department yesterday morning.

Masses of people are expected to turn up for the Oct 26 cremation, which will take place by the Grand Palace near the Chao Phraya River.

RID's director-general Somkiat Prajamwong told The Straits Times that water released from a dam upstream will be managed carefully. "We will do all we can to prevent any flood within Bangkok and prevent any disruption to the royal cremation," he said.

The capital was hit by a flash flood over the weekend after being drenched by rainfall not seen in over 20 years. It triggered a torrent of complaints about Bangkok's drainage system, which is frequently clogged with trash. While the capital has stayed mostly dry since, some businesses are lining their shopfronts with sandbags.

 

Outside Bangkok, rice farmers say they have had to sell their wet crops at steep discounts."We are familiar with seasonal floods which usually come after we harvest in late September, but it came earlier this year," Ayutthaya rice farmer Wichian Puanglamjiag lamented.

Ayutthaya Governor Sujin Chaichumsak said that water levels in his province should return to normal in a week. "We have been giving all kinds of aid, like sandbags, medical supplies and security," he said. "The cost of all the aid is about 200 million baht (S$8.19 million) - not big. People are suffering not because of monetary loss but because of the inconvenience."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2017, with the headline 'Rush to drain floodwater and protect Bangkok'. Print Edition | Subscribe