By Brigitte Leoni
Bangkok, 12 October
- Bangkok which has so far been spared the heavy flooding affecting one third of Thailand is currently preparing for the worst case scenario.
Government officials are predicting that Thailand’s capital city may be flooded later this week while news reports show residents sandbagging their houses and stocking up on food, drinking water, batteries and candles in case they have to be confined to their homes.
The new Thai Government is trying to divert huge amounts of water originating in the flooded Northern provinces and headed for Bangkok. Some 75 kilometres of sandbags have been laid to reinforce the 77 kilometre dike along the Chao Phraya River. Other precautionary measures include building and erecting flood barriers as well as the digging of drainage canals, to prevent parts of the capital being flooded.
According to Thai Minister of the Interior Yongyuth Wichaidit, 55 provinces out of 77 have been affected by the floods so far, with 30 being badly hit while 282 people have lost their lives.
A spokesperson from Bangkok’s Disaster Management Department said, “There are 10 critical provinces and the government has set up the Flood Relief Operation Center (FROC) where all the integrated government agencies system have been situated to rapidly assist people in need.
“The risk of Bangkok being flooded is very high this time as there is a convergence of three main causal factors: the run off of water coming from the flooded Northern provinces; additional rains which are forecast by the end of week and high sea tides which are expected from Saturday to Monday.
“The problem is diverting huge amounts of water coming from the already flooded provinces to the nearby Gulf of Thailand Sea when all the canals in Bangkok have already exceeded their maximum capacities,” said the spokesperson. “All the necessary prevention measures have been taken but the abnormal amount of precipitations since the beginning of the monsoon season have aggravated the situation.”
“We hope that Bangkok will be spared of course,” said Jerry Velasquez from the UNISDR Asia-Pacific Office, “as too many people are already affected by flooding in Thailand. What is happening today is another warning for the authorities as rainfalls will be more frequent and more intense in the future. Climate change adaptation needs to remain high on the Thai political agenda as already is in other countries like the Philippines, Viet Nam and Indonesia. We will continue working with the Government of Thailand to find long term solutions.”