Thai floods threaten underground rail stations

Thailand`s worst floods in decades reached the downtown of the capital Bangkok.

Updated: Nov 04, 2011, 21:19 PM IST

Bangkok: Thailand`s worst floods in decades
on Friday reached the downtown of the capital Bangkok, putting at
risk few underground rail stations and prompting the shutting
down of a key shopping centre here.

Swirling flood waters forced the residents into frenzied
hoarding of food and water as more roads became inundated with
water, including Chatuchak, the country`s popular weekend
market.

The flood water arrived at the Lat Phrao intersection on
the northern edge of the city centre today, leading to the
closure of popular Central Plaza shopping mall.

A Bangkok metro spokesperson said three subway stations
were at risk of the swirling waters and may have to be shut
down.

However, authorities said that the Swarnabhoomi
International Airport would be spared by the floods.

More than 400 people have died while hundreds of
thousands have been displaced by the flood waters while
several industrial areas have shut down in the outskirts of
Bangkok after water deluged the sites.

Noodles, rice, mineral water, UHT milk cartons are fast
disappearing from supermarket shelves as worried people
stocked up food.

Meanwhile, Thais were told to accept the reality that
they will have to continue to live with the floods for now.

The government is to set up a committee to oversee
restoration of the country after the flood recedes, Plodprasop
Surasawadi, the Science and Technology Minister, said here.

He said it was his own assessment that the people in
Bangkok and surrounding provinces would have to live with the
existing flood situation for at least another two weeks.

Thai Science and Technology Minister said the government
was setting up a committee to be chaired by Prime Minister
Yingluck Shinawatra on the restoration of the country as a
whole after the flood has receded.

Surasawadi also warned that Thais would have to accept
that climate change was occurring and would cause the rainy
season to come one or two months earlier than usual.

"From now on Thailand will have 25-50 per cent more rain,
or an additional 50,000-100,000 million cubic metres of
rainwater per year," he said.

The minister said normally the country has about 200,000
million cubic metres of rainwater per year.

"Because of climate change, we will have to amend the
agriculture calendar. We may have to plant rice sooner and
look for new rice strains suitable for the changing weather
conditions," he said.

The minister said the tourism calendar would also have to
be adjusted. He felt that new houses built on lowland should
be on stilts with open ground floors.

The Ministry had finished drawing up a design for
"amphibious" houses which can float in water and it would soon
be presented to the public.

The floods -- caused by unusually heavy rains and failure
to release enough water from dams during the beginning of the
monsoons - have killed 442 people and damaged homes and
shutdown industries across the country.

Domestic airport Don Mueang has been shut down after
waters entered the premises.

Police have now closed 47 roads to traffic because of the
flooding in Bangkok, as some underground rail stations are
under the threat of floods.

Overhead Skytrain operator BTS said all services were
still operating.

The Bank of Thailand said 13 commercial banks and a
financial firm reported that they had now temporarily closed a
total of 556 branches in flood-hit provinces.

Airports Authority of Thailand (AoT) president Somchai
Sawasdipol said the 3.5-metre high floodwalls will prevent
Suvarnabhumi international airport being flooded.

"We project that in a worst case scenario, the floodwater
would be no more than 1.50 metres high and our 3.50 metre
floodwalls would definitely be able to hold it," Somchai
said.

Asked about the possibility that the floodwater could
leak into the airport through the drains, the AoT chief said
Suvarnabhumi has closed its drainage system and water from the
outside could not flow in through it.

PTI