Online rumours create false panic over floods: Bangkok governor

A man drives his motorcycle on a flooded street in Bangkok on Oct 14, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang has dismissed online rumours that the city's Saen Saep canal would be closed to allow the discharge of rainwater from the northern provinces, urging the public to follow truthful information on official websites and other reliable sources.

In addition, the Thai government will take legal action against those who intentionally mislead the public by posting old news dating back to the country's massive floods in late 2011, according to chief spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

As Bangkok was hit by heavy downpours from late Friday (Oct 13) night to the early hours of Saturday, some old news stories and images that appeared online suggested that a massive amount of water had been released from the Bhumibol Dam to Bangkok via the Saen Saep canal.

These posts, which were extensively shared on social media, were disseminated to frighten the public, Sansern said.

He said those who posted the false information would be subject to criminal prosecution under the computer crimes and related laws.

According to Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang, the city's administration has worked closely with the Department of Irrigation to manage the overall floodwater situation, and it is untrue that the Saen Saep canal would be shut down as rumoured.

Aswin said the city has returned to normalcy with only a few major streets still flooded late Saturday. If there were no more heavy downpours spanning several hours, the situation would be all right, he said.

From 11pm on Friday until the early hours of Saturday, rainwaters reached the critical level of 214 millimetres, causing flash floods in 55 locations across Bangkok.

Meanwhile, the Meteorological Department forecast there could be more rain in Bangkok and its vicinity due to the influence of a monsoon and a high-pressure system, but the tropical storm Khanun would have no effect on Thailand after making landfall in upper Vietnam.

Earlier on Saturday, Bangkokians who had no urgent business were urged to stay home as many city roads were still inundated, such as Si Ayutthaya Road from the Phya Thai intersection to the Urupong intersection and Rama VI Road, Rajaprarop Road, Ratchavithi Road, the Din Daeng area and nearby Vibhavadi Road.

Bangkok's Phra Nakhon district recorded its highest single-day rainfall in a decade after torrential rains lashed the capital late Friday and early Saturday, recording 214.5mm of accumulated rainwater, followed by Phasi Charoen district's 214mm, Saphan Mon's 208mm, Yannawa district's 195mm, and Bueng Makkasan pond in Ratchathewi district's 177.5mm.

Officials said the city has a capacity to drain rainwater in real time if a downpour is not more than 60mm per hour.

Former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was one of the flood victims."It was the first time floodwater has got into my house. I did not lift things up. My car has already broken down," he posted on his official Line account, @mark_abhisit, on Saturday afternoon. The Democrat Party leader's house is located in Soi Sukhumvit 31.

Meanwhile, a former deputy Bangkok governor lashed out at the city administration for trying to please Prime Minister by supporting his floating market policy and neglecting the draining of the capital's canals.

Teerachon Manomaiphibui posted on his Facebook wall that from his experience as a deputy governor, he would urge the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration to drain all canals in preparation for heavy rains.

"The BMA should not be worried about the floating market policy of the prime minister," Teerachon said.

"The BMA should explain to the prime minister about the management of flood prevention in Bangkok during the monsoon season. If all canals are kept brimming in line with the floating market policy, flooding will occur immediately.

"All water pumping systems must be turned on at full capacity to drain water. The BMA should not try to please the prime minister without explaining the truth to him."

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