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Govt: Bt900bn needed

Bt800bn to overhaul water management procedures, Bt100bn to help flooded industrial estates

The Yingluck government will seek to spend a staggering Bt900 billion on national recovery from the still unfolding flood disaster and on long-term flood prevention.

The massive amount includes Bt100 billion for the recovery of inundated industrial estates and Bt800 billion for an overhaul of water-management procedures to safeguard industrial zones from inundation, Energy Minister Pichai Nariptha-phan said yesterday.

"At the special meeting of selected Cabinet members, the prime minister made a recovery proposal to be implemented in two stages," he said.

The first stage, to be implemented within a year, will see the full recovery of flood-hit industrial estates, he said. Some 140 pumps have been imported and would arrive at seven key industrial estates in Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani in the next 20 days to drain floodwater.

For the second stage, under the "New Thailand" plan, the country will see the complete overhaul of its water-management system. The government has yet to finalise its choice among models designed in the United States, the Netherlands and Japan.

The massive spending plan was formulated in the midst of the Bangkok crisis. The besieged city has been brought to a near standstill by fears of widespread flooding. The government was yesterday holding on to hopes that the situation would improve at the end of this week, when sea tides ceased to be a threatening factor, leaving only northern run-off in the Chao Phraya River and the flood water north of Bangkok to deal with.

Flooding spread to wider areas of Bangkok yesterday as the Chao Phraya's water level in the capital reached a record high of 2.53 metres and some portions of floodwall leaked. The government said the situation would not suddenly turn into a major emergency unless certain key strategic flood barriers collapsed, either due to water pressure or deliberate destruction.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shina-watra said the government would not extend the special holiday, which ends today, that was declared in the face of the flooding. The government would, however, ask business operators to allow flood-hit employees to take leave without being considered absent from work, she said.

Bangkok residents should brace for a few more days of hardship, as the worst of the inundation would come to pass in the next few days, she said. She urged residents not to breach the dykes, because this would cause the flood to spread to wider areas. The water volume surrounding the capital will ease starting today and the high tides have already peaked, hence the increased opportunity for drainage of flood water into the sea, she said.

She said she would have to check for more information before commenting on the allegation that relief supplies were left behind in the inundated cargo warehouse at Don Mueang Airport after the Flood Relief Operations Centre (FROC) was relocated to the Energy Ministry on Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road.

The shelter at Don Mueang Airport would not be closed despite rising flood water because some victims refused to evacuate, she said.

FROC spokesman Wim Rungwat-tanachinda said the fact that relief supplies were left at the airport's cargo warehouse was attributed to the slow distribution process and not negligence.

Wim said he would have to check why floating toilets were left at passenger terminal II. He said all floating toilets were brought out of the warehouse and transported to the National Stadium, the new distribution centre for relief supplies.

FROC director Pracha Promnok

said he was awaiting for an update on the handling and distribution of relief supplies.

Due to criticism, Pheu Thai MP Karun Hosakul had been removed from overseeing the relief supplies. PM's Office inspector Chamroen Yutitham-sakul was last week put in charge of flood relief. Chamroen said he was responsible for moving the storage of relief supplies from Don Mueang to the National Stadium.

Donated clothes were in the process of being washed and dried before distribution to flood victims, he said, denying the clothes had been abandoned.

In regard to donations for floating toilets, boats and rafts, he said those materials were under the supervision of the Interior Ministry's Disaster Miti-gation and Prevention Department.

Officials in charge of relief supplies admitted flaws in the distribution system. One of the flaws was government MPs could claim credit by putting their names on the relief bags. The FROC was accused of allowing red tape to disrupt distribution of relief supplies via government agencies while allowing MPs unlimited access to the supplies.


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