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Bangkok prepares for advancing flood waters

Officials in the Thai capital issued a fresh evacuation warning as large volumes of water headed toward Bangkok. Across the country, over 110,000 evacuees have been forced to seek refuge in the aftermath of three months of storms.


AFP- Millions of people in the Thai capital nervously prepared for the advancing and seemingly unstoppable flood waters on Monday after a fresh warning for residents to evacuate certain danger zones.

Bangkok authorities said late Sunday that large volumes of water were flowing towards low-lying Bangkok and were closing in on six city districts, including areas just north of the city centre.

The announcement came after the Thai government said it would set up a distribution centre in the capital to help replenish empty supermarket shelves in preparation for the floods that have so far largely spared the city.

Other parts of the country have been plagued by three months of heavy monsoon rains, which have killed more than 350 people in Thailand and damaged the homes and livelihoods of nine million people.

The six Bangkok districts now of pressing concern include Chatujak, home to a giant weekend market popular with tourists, and Don Mueang, where the city's second largest airport is currently doubling up as a flood refuge centre.

Airport officials said the roads by the terminals were swamped by 70-80 centimetres of water and had become impassable for small vehicles, though the Don Mueang compound itself remained dry for now.

"If anything affects Bangkok it will have an impact on the whole country, so it's very important to take care of Bangkok in order for the country to survive," city governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said in a televised address Monday.

On Sunday his administration called on residents in the six critical districts who faced "potential dangers to lives and properties" to evacuate to emergency shelters.

"In particular, priority must be assigned to the sick, young and elderly," said the statement, asking the public not to panic.

Hundreds of worried residents have parked cars on bridges and elevated roads. Adding to concerns were photographs and televised footage of sizeable crocodiles captured by villagers and authorities in a province north of Bangkok, after a number of the reptiles escaped from flooded farms.

The World Health Organisation has warned that infections, water-borne and communicable diseases, such as diarrhoea, were key concerns for flood victims, who were also warned to be beware of electrocution and snake bites.

Hospitals in flood-risk zones have been told by the public health ministry to stockpile medicines and other supplies to last as long as three weeks.

The government has said it would discuss measures in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to help the nation's hundreds of flood-affected factories get back on track, with financial aid and tax incentives among the ideas mooted.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra again rejected criticism that her administration was not keeping the public fully informed, telling reporters there was "no cover-up but new factors arise every day".

Authorities are desperately trying to drain billions of cubic metres of water from upcountry out to sea through rivers and canals in and around the city by opening sluice gates in the capital -- a risky strategy.

"There are several factors that we can't control. The water is coming in two directions," Yingluck said at the weekend.

Another major test is expected between October 28 and 30 when seasonal high tides flow up Bangkok's Chao Phraya river, meeting run-off water from the north.

Yingluck said the city should prepare for possible inundation up to one metre (three feet) deep and warned it could take six weeks for the flooding to recede.

Thai troops on Sunday reinforced vulnerable barriers along the Chao Phraya river after a sudden rise in the water level prompted concern.

Thammasat University, serving as a shelter to the north of Bangkok, began evacuating refugees early on Monday after water levels inside the campus reached 1.5 metres, vice rector Kampol Ruchiwit said on television.

Across the country, more than 110,000 evacuees have been forced to seek refuge in 1,743 shelters to escape the waters, and tens of thousands of soldiers and police have been mobilised to maintain order.

Most of Thailand's top tourist destinations and the capital's main airport have so far been unaffected.

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