Bangkok set to escape worst of flooding as waters start to recede


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The Independent Online

The Prime Minister of Thailand says she is optimistic that the country's worst flooding in half a century will mostly spare Bangkok, as some dykes overflowed yesterday but the capital's defences otherwise held firm during critical high tides.

Waters were receding from many inundated areas of Thailand, where floods have left 381 people dead. But the misery remained for several communities still under water and feverish efforts to protect Bangkok continued as runoff water from the north pushed through on its way to the Gulf of Thailand.

Rescuers evacuated a heavily pregnant woman stranded in the swamped neighbourhood of Thonburi in the northern outskirts of the city.

The network of dykes defending against the Chao Phraya river failed in at least two neighbourhoods as a record high tide pushed up from the gulf.

Water spilled into streets as city workers and troops rushed to shore up concrete walls with sandbags.

The Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, told residents of Bangkok to be "confident" as she headed into a government crisis meeting, saying there may be overflow into some areas but it would not cause any great damage. "We will recover soon," she said.

Bangkok's governor, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, said the Chao Phraya reached a record level of 2.53 metres early yesterday, just above dyke heights of 2.5 metres. However, the tides were expected to ease below critical levels after today, and officials have suggested that the flooding situation will then improve.

Floodwaters have submerged entire towns across the heartland of the country over the past two months, forcing hundreds of factories to shut. In the past week, the waters have reached outer neighbourhoods of the capital, although its central districts have remained dry.

The weekend's high tides were described as the greatest test of the capital's flood defences, and many wary business owners hastily built temporary walls around their entrances.

While some of Bangkok was dry, areas in the outskirts saw flooding spread. Seven of Bangkok's 50 districts, all to the north and west of the city, are heavily inundated. Eight other districts have seen less serious flooding. AP