200,000 evacuated as water breaches Nava Nakorn Industrial Estate

national October 18, 2011 00:00

By The Nation

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Chaos reigned as over 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate from the 8,000-rai Nava Nakorn Industrial Estate in Pathum Thani yesterday, and flood shelters prepared to transfer evacuees to new sites fearing they would themselves soon be inundated.

Shortly before noon, a five-metre section of Nava Nakorn Industrial Estate’s protective dyke was breached, sending flood water gushing into the industrial site.

The Flood Relief Operations Command (FROC) ordered industrial plants at the estate to cease operations and evacuate workers, spokesman Wim Rungwattanachinda said at 12.30pm.

Two hundred buses plus military and police vehicles were waiting at the entrance of the industrial estate to take the evacuees to shelters, FROC officials said.

Deputy national police commissioner Pol Lt-General Pongsapat Pongcharoen said at a press conference that the Dhammakaya evacuation centre could shelter some 5,000 people, while the centre at the Thanyaburi district office could accommodate 20,000.

He said the Government Complex could shelter 1,000 more evacuees, while the TU Dome at Thammasat University Rangsit campus could shelter 3,000.

Nava Nakorn is home to over 200 factories with about 175,000 workers. There are also more than 30,000 households with over 100,000 residents around the estate.

The evacuation itself was hectic, with evacuees confused about which vehicles would take them to which of the prepared shelters.

The confusion was briefly compounded when FROC director-general Pracha Promnok held a press conference at 2pm to rescind the evacuation order, saying that only part of the industrial estate was flooded, only for the agency to hold another press conference after 3pm asking people to leave for their safety.

In the meantime, Kampol Ruchiwit, the vice rector for administration at Thammasat’s Rangsit campus, said parts of a dyke to its west were found to be cracked and that the water level there was rising steadily.

The shelter there had reached its capacity of 3,800 evacuees. They were housed in Gymnasium 1, deemed the campus’ safest venue. The shelter’s kitchen was moved to higher ground for safety reasons, Kampol said.

The gymnasium was surrounded by a 1.5-metre-high sandbag wall, but it needed to be reinforced, he said.

More workers were needed to reinforce the shelter’s dykes, Kampol said, as existing workers and volunteers were exhausted after days of work.

Kampol believed there was a 70 per cent chance that the campus would be flooded. But the university would do its best to keep evacuees safe.

Phra Sinthawong Wutthiwangso, in charge of Dhammakaya Temple’s public relations, said the temple was preparing to evacuate more than 2,000 of its monks and novices, plus more than 1,000 laymen to its youth training centres in Nakhon Ratchasima and Lop Buri.

The situation had changed since the temple opened its evacuation centre on Thursday, he said. After the Rapeepat water gates opened, the water level increased and was now only 30 centimetres below the top of the dyke. Temple authorities had also told people who parked their cars there to move them, as the temple might be flooded, he said.

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