Can Bangkok make it?

national October 14, 2011 00:00

By The Nation

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Concerns increase as more water than expected might flow through the city

More than expected amount of water poised to pass through Bangkok has added to concerns about the capital's chance of survival from flood disaster. As floodwater has already covered some Bangkok’s areas, relevant authorities have just guaranteed that impacts on the capital will not be severe. 

“I am 70 per cent confident that Bangkok will not be hard hit,” Justice Minister Pracha Promnok said yesterday in his capacity as the director of Flood Relief Operation Command. He believed only the outer Bangkok would suffer from floods. 
As of press time, some 16 billion cubic metres of water in upstream provinces look set to head down to the Gulf of Thailand. Of the amount, a large portion will likely pass through Bangkok. 
It will take at least one month for the runoff to finally reach the shore. 
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday revealed that the Royal Irrigation Department told her the floodwater level in Bangkok would range between 20 and 30 centimetres. 
“People in East Bangkok must brace for possible flooding,” she said. 
She was speaking as relevant authorities struggled hard to protect the capital from flooding. 
Yingluck and Royal Thai Army (RTA) commanderinchief General Prayut Janocha took a helicopter ride to survey routes that brought water from Central provinces to the Gulf of Thailand. 
She said many canals would be dredged and expanded so as to push the runoff water out faster. To date, about 550 million cubic metres from the Central region are being drained to the sea daily.
Prayut said soldiers would be responsible for digging shortcut canals in West Bangkok in response to His Majesty the King’s advice. The shortcuts are intended to facilitate the water flow more efficiently. 
“It will involve a combined stretch of 10 kilometres. The operation will take about five or six days to complete,” he said. 
Pracha disclosed that 1,000 boats were now using their propellers to push the water out to Bangkok faster.
Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra urged people not to get panicked. “Water volume is huge but the situation as of now is not critical,” he said.
However, he expressed concerns for people living in Bangkok’s eastern zone because their areas were beyond the protection of embankment line of key roads. 
The level of these roads is high enough to serve as floodwall protecting people in the inner Bangkok. 
“Problem will arise for sure when the Chao Phraya River swells to 2.30 metres (above median sea level),” Sukhumbhand said. He said the water level in the river really could rise that high between October 16 and October 18.
The Bangkok governor admitted that he was discussing on evacuation plans with the Bangkok City Clerk Charernrat Chutikarn. 
In Bangkok’s Min Buri district, many residents have lived with floodwater for about one month now.
“We can’t prevent floods there. We can only offer some forms of assistance,” Min Buri District Office assistant director Manida Panwattana said. Min Buri is located in East Bangkok. 
Chawalit Chantararat, an engineer in waterresource engineer at the TEAM Consulting Engineering and Management Co Ltd, suggested that some stretches of roads in Bangkok’s Min Buri and Nong Chok districts, Pathum Thani’s Nong Suea district, and Chachoengsao’s Bang Nam Priao district were dismantled to facilitate water into Dan Canal. 
“With that new route for water flow, we will be able to push 150 million cubic metres more of water out into the sea,” he said. 
According to the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, floods have ravaged 26 provinces and upset the lives of over 2.25 million people. Floodrelated death tolls have now soared to 283. The disaster has also left two flood victims missing.


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