Northern Bangkok residents warned to be ready to evacuate
Thai officials expressed hope on Sunday that central Bangkok would escape the floods that have devastated a third of the country's provinces, but residents along canals in the northern part of the capital were warned to be ready to evacuate.
AFP - Residents living along canals in parts of northern Bangkok were warned Sunday to be ready to evacuate if needed because of the spread of floods that have so far spared most of the Thai capital.
Emergency barriers along Bangkok's swollen Chao Phraya River prevented a major overflow during a spring high tide over the weekend, easing fears that the waterway might burst its banks and engulf the city of 12 million people.
The majority of the capital, including the business and shopping districts, remains dry and weeks of heavy rain have given way to mostly sunny skies.
But a mass of runoff water continues to creep into the capital's outskirts, with several residential areas in the north submerged by waist-deep brown liquid, while the western side of the Chao Phraya has also been inundated.
"The problem is not yet over. It's still serious," said Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra.
"People who live on both sides of canals in Lak Si, Lad Prao, Chatuchak and Bang Khen: be ready to evacuate to safer areas," he said, referring to four northern Bangkok districts.
The three-month crisis -- triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains -- has left at least 381 people dead around the kingdom and damaged millions of homes and livelihoods, mostly in northern and central Thailand.
Thousands of residents have left Bangkok, with many heading to coastal resorts away from the path of the water, after the government declared a five-day holiday through Monday. The break will not be extended, it said.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who previously warned the floods could last for weeks, now says the waters are likely to start receding soon because the end of the seasonal high tide will make it easier to drain water out to sea.
"After October 31 the situation is likely to improve if there is no rain," she told reporters.
The government hopes to channel billions of cubic metres of water from the central plains through canals and rivers in and around Bangkok and into the Gulf of Thailand.
Many people in the capital have been stockpiling food and residents in the west of the city have been told to store tap water because supplies will be limited at times as a result of contamination from rubbish and industry.
Countries including the United States and Britain have advised against all but essential travel to Bangkok, but most top tourist attractions and destinations have been unaffected and the main airport is operating normally.