Thai floods claim more factories, Bangkok safe for now

TN News

Email Print

Floods swamped another industrial estate in central Thailand on Sunday and threatened a bigger one just outside the capital, Bangkok, which has so far escaped the worst despite heavy monsoon rain and water streaming toward it from the north.

Floods have killed 297 people since late July and caused $3 billion in damage. A third of the country is under water but officials believe low-lying inner Bangkok will be spared after the strengthening of its system of defensive dikes and canals.

"The government's operations are proceeding well ... As for the current water level, it is satisfactory and it's quite certain that water will not flood Bangkok," said Police General Pongsapat Pongcharoen, a spokesman at a crisis center set up at the city's old Don Muang airport.

Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani and Nakhon Sawan provinces north of Bangkok have been devastated. Floods have swallowed up homes and forced a series of huge industrial parks to close, including the Bang Pa-In estate in Ayutthaya on Saturday.

Another estate, Factory Land in Ayutthaya, which has 93 factories employing 8,500 employees, flooded in the early hours of Sunday.

"The water broke in at around midnight. Operators there were aware of it and evacuated people from the estate ... Up to now, five industrial estates have been flooded," Prayoon Tingthong, in charge of industrial affairs for the province, told Reuters.

Most of the factories there make car parts and electronic components, so this will add to the problems of the big international companies that use Thailand as a regional production hub.

Japanese car maker Honda Motor Co Ltd has shut its Ayutthaya plant, which accounts for 4.7 percent of its global output, and says it will stay closed until October 21.

The authorities are increasingly worried about another industrial park, Nava Nakorn in Pathum Thani province north of Bangkok, which is standing in the way of the flow of water toward the capital.

Thai media reported that some 600 soldiers and workers from the estate, Thailand's oldest with more than 200 factories, were working around the clock to strengthen its walls and divert water.

Nation TV reported that water was just 10 cm (4 inches) below the top of the estate's 4.5 meters high wall.

The north, northeast and center of Thailand have been worst hit by the flooding and Bangkok -- much of it only two meters (6.5 ft) above sea level -- is at risk as water overflows from reservoirs in the north, swelling the Chao Phraya river that winds through the densely populated and low-lying city.

The river was reported to be at a record high level of 2.15 meters (seven feet) at one point on Saturday but the embankment wall running along it in inner Bangkok is at least 2.5 meters high and has been raised along vulnerable stretches.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has sought to reassure residents they should be safe but people have still stocked up on bottled water, instant noodles, rice and canned goods, emptying shelves in some major markets.

Many have parked their cars in elevated garages and piled sandbags in front of shop-houses and homes.

Water from the north approached Bangkok over the weekend, coinciding with high estuary tides that hamper the flow of water into the sea.

"We will protect strategic areas and the heart of the economy such as industrial zones, the central part of all provinces and the Thai capital as well as Suvarnabhumi Airport, industrial estates and evacuation centers," Yingluck said on Saturday, referring to Bangkok's main international airport.

Despite these efforts, the economy will suffer.

Both the central bank and government have put the cost at about 100 billion baht ($3.2 billion) already, more than 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

The Finance Ministry has cut its GDP growth forecast for this year to 3.7 percent from 4.0 percent.

More World News