Thai residents ride on a truck through floodwaters as they evacuate their neighborhood next to the Chao Praya river in Bangkok, 28 October 2011. AFP / Getty Images

October 28 (AP)  BANGKOK – The main river coursing through Thailand's capital swelled to record highs Friday, briefly flooding riverside buildings and an ornate royal complex at high tide amid fears that flood defenses could break and swamp the heart of the city.

Ankle-high water from the Chao Phraya river spilled through one sandbagged entranceway of Bangkok's treasured Grand Palace, which once housed the kingdom's monarchy. The army was pumping out the water, and tourists were still entering the white-walled compound.

The river has filled roads outside the palace gates for days, but the water has receded with the tides, leaving streets dry again.

But the higher-than-normal tides in the Gulf of Thailand, expected to peak Saturday, are obstructing the flood runoff from the north, and there are fears the overflows could swamp parts of downtown. The government also is worried major barriers and dikes could break.

The flood walls protecting much of the inner city are 8.2 feet high, and Saturday's high tide is expected to reach 8.5 feet.

Friday's morning high tide passed without a major breach, but the waters briefly touched riverside areas closer to the city's central business districts of Silom and Sathorn.

"It is clear that although the high tides haven't reached 2.5 meters (8.2 feet), it was high enough to prolong the suffering of those living outside of the flood walls and to threaten those living behind deteriorating walls," Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said.

Seven of Bangkok's 50 districts — all in the northern outskirts — are heavily flooded, and residents have fled aboard bamboo rafts and army trucks and by wading in waist-deep water. Eight other districts have seen less serious flooding.

New flooding was reported Friday in the city's southeast when a canal overflowed in a neighborhood on the outer parts of Sukhumvit Road.

The floods, the heaviest in Thailand in more than half a century, have drenched a third of the country's provinces, killed close to 400 people and displaced more than 110,000 others. The water has crept from the central plains south toward the Gulf of Thailand, but Bangkok is in the way. The capital is literally surrounded by behemoth pools of water flowing around and through the city via a complex network of canals and rivers. […]

Heavy flooding gushes into Bangkok's riverfront

Police and volunteers form a human chain to load plastic packed care packages of basic foods and sanitary items into waiting trucks for transport to flood victims in Bangkok, Thailand, 29 October 2011. EPA

BANGKOK, October 29 (Reuters) – Traffic clogged roads out of the Thai capital yesterday, as tens of thousands of people fled ahead of a high tide expected to worsen floods that have inundated factories and prompted foreign governments to warn their citizens to stay away.

The main concern is that Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River will burst its banks over the weekend during the unusually high tide that began yesterday. Buildings across Bangkok have been sandbagged for protection, and some vulnerable streets were nearly deserted.

Thailand’s worst flooding in half a century, caused in part by unusually heavy monsoon rain, has killed 377 people since mid-July and disrupted the lives of nearly 2.2 million, until now mostly in the north and central provinces.

TV footage showed cars and trucks bumper-to-bumper leaving the city and the main airport’s departure lounges packed, but the traffic department said it could not put an exact figure on the size of the Bangkok exodus because much of its monitoring equipment was under water.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said she was considering a proposal to dig channels into some roads in eastern Bangkok to drain water into the Gulf of Thailand, an idea backed by the chairman of the Thailand unit of Toyota Motor Corp, whose factories have been badly flooded.

“We need to look into several details on whether it works,” Yingluck told reporters.

The Meteorological Department warned residents living along the Chao Phraya they could face rising waters. Roads around the Grand Palace are partially flooded along with some streets in densely populated Chinatown.

Yesterday morning, on a street in front of the Grand Palace normally bustling with tourists, a 2m snake was caught by a motorcycle taxi driver. Residents have also had to contend with crocodiles escaping from flooded farms.

While many of the inner-city streets of Bangkok remained dry, the suburbs continued to struggle.

In the riverside shantytown of Bang Phlad, small wooden homes were knee-deep in foul-smelling water with rubbish floating on the surface. Residents carried belongings above their heads, struggling against the current of water pumped back out to the river.

At the district’s Yanhee hospital, two dozen emergency room doctors and nurses shoveled sand into sacks to fortify a 1m wall protecting the building as water levels rose in a nearby canal brimming with trash.

In Nonthaburi Province bordering Bangkok, walls of sandbags were collapsing under the weight of surging floodwaters. A policeman dressed in shorts, flip-flops and a vest directed traffic on a megaphone as water gushed out of drains. […]

Tens of thousands flee floods in Bangkok



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