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Thailand insists Bangkok is safe as monsoon floods advance

The Department of Foreign Affairs has strongly advised Irish citizens to register their details – as the region’s monsoon season is expected to last until the end of October.

A man transports dogs on a raft made of a car tire during an evacuation after floods hit his village in Ayutthaya province, central Thailand, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011.
A man transports dogs on a raft made of a car tire during an evacuation after floods hit his village in Ayutthaya province, central Thailand, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011.
Image: Apichart Weerawong/AP/Press Association Images

THE THAI GOVERNMENT insisted today that Bangkok’s defences will protect it from the worst flood waters in decades, which have already devastated large swathes of the country and are now surging toward the capital.

Some outlying parts of the city could be hit by flood waters this weekend, but most of the capital would be spared by flood walls, said the head of the government’s Flood Relief Centre, Justice Minister Pracha Promnok.

Three main water barricades north, east and west of Bangkok are “efficiently protecting” the city from being inundated, Pracha said at a news conference.

Bangkok’s emergency irrigation system has the capacity to drain off about 550 million cubic meters of water per day, far more than the 100 million cubic meters per day that is flowing toward the city.

“Therefore Bangkok is safe,” Pracha said.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority agreed with that assessment.

Deputy Bangkok Governor Pornthep Techapaiboon said city residents should remain calm, and that there was no need to hoard food.

“The Chao Phraya River water level on Saturday will be lower than the barriers. However, water might be able to slightly flow over or leak over the barricades in some parts,” Pornthep said. “But about 5,000 officials are ready to be dispatched to the vulnerable areas to fix it, so Bangkok residents should not be worried.”

Frenzied preparations have been under way in the last few days as fears intensified that flood waters rushing from the north will combine with rains and high tides in the next few days to deluge the city. Government reassurances today did not slow down efforts to prepare for the worst.

Erroneous reports yesterday said that flood waters had broken through the gate, leading the government to order residents to urgently evacuate. The Flood Relief Centre later apologised for the “misinformation,” saying the evacuation order had been reversed and that damage to the gate had been overestimated.

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Emergency crews raced to repair a key barrier protecting Bangkok from approaching waters today, part of a desperate bid to defend the Thai capital from the country’s worst floods in decades.

At least 283 people have been killed in Thailand since late July by floods and mudslides that have devastated rice crops and shut dozens of factories.

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs has strongly advised citizens to register their details with the DFA, whether they are living or visiting Thailand, and to exercise extreme caustion. It has warned that Thailand’s monsoon season is expected to continue until the end of October.

Those looking for up-to-date meteorological information can find details on the Thai Meterological Department’s website and through local media outlets.

Additional reporting by the AP

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