September 17, 2012 00:00 By PICHET NATEBUTR, WATTANA KHAM
Officials try to fill embankment gaps as water level hits 50cm in commercial centre
Flooding raged into the heart of Sukhothai yesterday, just a few days after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra visited the province and declared the situation there would soon return to normal.
Despite the use of many pumps and other flood-prevention efforts, floodwater levels rose about 50 centimetres in the economic zones of the province.
Officials, as of press time, were still struggling to fill breaks and leaks in the embankment along the Yom River. They initially thought their giant sandbags and gabions would be able to block the water from flowing into the town and causing inundation.
The Provincial Waterworks Authority’s Sukhothai branch was flooded and tap-water services to locals were disrupted.
The Yom River also damaged earthen embankments in many other areas of Sukhothai’s Sri Samrong and Sawankhalok districts, flooding people living in riverside communities.
Schools in seriously flooded areas would be closed down temporarily, officials said.
A representative of Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya yesterday visited Sukhothai’s Muang district to hand out 500 sets of relief items to flood victims.
Deputy Sukhothai Governor Smith Palawatwichai said that during the past week, about 6,000 people in Muang Sukhothai Thani Municipality had been hit by the flooding.
In his capacity as head of the Water and Flood Management Committee (WFMC), Science Minister Plodprasob Surassawadee yesterday convened a videoconference with officials and 36 provincial governors.
The conference took place after Yingluck received reports that the embankment in Sukhothai had been breached again.
“The prime minister is worried about the lives and property of people. So, she has constantly monitored the situation,” Plodprasob said.
He said authorities were taking care of all provinces, not just one particular province.
“The government is now fighting not just against natural floods but also against people’s fears [about possible flooding],” Plodprasob lamented. “We are trying to create public confidence in the government’s water-management ability.”
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit complained that some media outlets were exaggerating the flood situation, especially in Sukhothai.
“In fact, it’s not as serious as some newspaper headlines have suggested,” he said.
According to Plodprasob, authorities have mobilised all resources including the latest technologies in tackling the water-related threats. “The results of our ongoing battle will come out in a month or two,” he said, adding, “I believe the situation will not go beyond our control.”
Hydro and Agro Infomatics Institute director Royol Chitdon, who sits on a WFMC subcommittee, said the volume of water in the Yom River in Sukhothai’s Sri Satchanalai district had already dropped from 1,500 cubic metres per second to just 1,200 cubic metres. He said the Yom River had overflowed slightly in Sawankhalok district.
“We will be expediting the flow of water into the sea via the Chao Phraya and Tha Chin rivers,” he said.
On the water situation in Bangkok, Royol said rain would likely continue till today, but would soon ease. “That means authorities will have time to drain water into the sea before a low-pressure ridge brings more downpours to Bangkok later this month,” he said.
Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra said that in the face of heavy rain, some low-lying areas in the capital could be flooded. He said during the past three days, rainfall ranged between 130 and 150 millimetres.
“When the rainfall goes past 60 millimetres, it will take some time to drain the water,” he said.