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Thai Minister: Bangkok safe from floods

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14 October 2011 by Luke McCormick

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as sought to reassure Bangkok residents they are safe from approaching flood waters, as efforts continue to protect the city from the country's worst floods in decades.

Ms Yingluck said floodwalls would protect the city centre and it should be considered safe.

Her comments came after an evacuation warning for some suburbs issued by a minister sparked panic. The false alarm prompted Deputy Prime Minister Pracha Promnok, who heads the flood relief operations centre, to quickly make an announcement urging residents to remain calm and that there was no need to evacuate.

Central Bangkok is protected by floodwalls and in recent days teams of troops and volunteers have been racing to fill sandbags to fortify existing dykes.

"Bangkok may face some problems in areas that are on the outer sides of the irrigation dykes but water levels will not be too high. But inner Bangkok has extremely high defences," Ms Yingluck told reporters in Bangkok.

"In conclusion, Bangkok should still be considered safe," she said.

Much of the water heading towards the Gulf of Thailand is flowing around the north-east side of the city with floodgates into the CBD locked.

The government was still confident the CBD would stay dry, but many were sandbagging anyway as insurance against the coming weekend's high tides.

Bulldozers are working in rushing water to try and plug the leak at a sluice gate in Pathum Thani on Bangkok's outer north-eastern fringe.

Over the past several weeks, seasonal rains that are heavier than usual have resulted in widespread flooding in Thailand. While the flooding is having some impact on tourism, most key tourist destinations and attractions throughout Thailand have not been affected by the floods and almost all remain open.

The floods are mainly affecting the provinces in central Thailand and a few provinces in the north and north-east. Provinces in the south of Thailand have not been affected by the floods.

Major tourist destinations, such as, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Sukhothai, Kanchanaburi, Ratchaburi, Pattaya, Ko Chang, Rayong, Phuket, Krabi, Trang, Ko Samui, and all provinces in southern Thailand are experiencing normal weather conditions for this time of year.

All airports in Thailand, including Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, have not been affected by the floods and are operating as per usual.
Tourist destinations in the North, such as, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Sukhothai, are best accessed by air as some roads and railways in the central provinces are closed due to the floods.

Provinces in southern and eastern Thailand remain fully accessible by road and train.

Train services from Bangkok to northern destinations beyond Ayutthaya are suspended, with only limited services in the areas affected by the flooding. The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) is offering full refunds on tickets for travellers who want to cancel their trips to destinations where train service is suspended.

Tourists planning to travel to the provinces affected by the floods are advised to check the latest weather forecasts for their destination and confirm arrangements with the transportation providers with which they will be travelling.

The areas of central Bangkok where tourists normally go are not flooded and fully accessible. Everything continues as normal for both visitors and Bangkok residents in these areas.

Most of the flooding now taking place is in provinces to the north and east of Bangkok. Almost all of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area is protected by a large network of flood walls, levees, canals and drainage tunnels. The city government is using this network to manage the water flow and minimize flooding in the city.

Some outlying suburban districts of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area outside of these flood defences are experiencing localized flooding. During periods of intensely heavy rain, there is some localized flooding of certain low-lying streets in Bangkok. These conditions are quickly cleared up by municipal work crews and the city's storm water drainage system.

The Chao Phaya River, which runs through Bangkok, is at a higher-than-normal level with some localised flooding along certain sections of its banks. The river's water flow is being carefully managed by government officials to prevent broader flooding. The area around Suvarnabhumi Airport has considerable flood protection measures in place. The Airport has not been affected by floods and continues to operate normally.

Day trips and short trips to tourist attractions close to Bangkok, such as, Pattaya, Hua-Hin, Damnoen Saduak Floating Marketing in Ratchaburi, and Amphawa Floating Market in Samut Songkhram remain unaffected by the floods and open to visitors. Tourists who would like to visit historical attractions can consider Sukhothai Historical Park in Sukhothai.

The province of Ayutthaya has been widely affected by the floods. This includes Ayutthaya's inner city island and World Heritage Site. Tourist attractions on and outside the island of Ayutthaya have been temporarily closed due to the floods. Due to the disruptions caused by the floods, the TAT recommends that tourists avoid visiting Ayutthaya until the floodwater subsides and tourist attractions have reopened.

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