A Buddhist monk wades through waist-deep flood water near a temple in Thailand, 8 October 2011. abc.net.au

October 11 (VOA News) – United Nations officials say the capitals of Thailand and Cambodia are at risk as the worst flooding in modern times sweeps through the Mekong Basin.

Kirsten Mildren, spokeswoman for the U.N.'s humanitarian affairs agency, told VOA Tuesday that officials in Bangkok are taking urgent measures as the floodwaters bear down on the city.

"We know that there is a lot of water coming down," she said. "The government at the moment is building canals around the city. There are sand bags going up everywhere. They are doing what they can to actually stop the water coming through, but each day it seems to come closer and closer."

Mildren said the waters are also continuing to rise in Cambodia, where Phnom Penh is threatened. Across the country 183 people have died since August and almost 100,000 hectares of paddy are damaged or destroyed.

Regionwide, she said at least 500 people are dead and millions are affected in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

"You’ve got, you know, 2.5 million people that are affected, and they are probably affected because flood water has gone through their villages, its gone through their rice paddies, schools are closed, so most people are actually displaced, they are in evacuation centers, they are staying with family and friends out of the water."

In the northern Thailand city of Ayutthaya, resident Pathumwan Choichuichai told an Associated Press television crew he is very scared.

"It's never been like this. There's nothing left, no house, no belongings, including clothes, bed and refrigerator and appliances.  Everything is gone," he said.  He has lost his home, his clothes and everything he owns in the flooding.

Mildren says the flooding is the result of an unusual combination of weather events, beginning with a series of typhoons that swept northwestward from the Philippines.

"We’ve had four back-to-back typhoons that went through Philippines, and then that brought along heavy rain which, on top of that, the usual monsoon rain, basically has flooded the Mekong Basin. And that’s brought a whole lot of water all the way down to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. And this is why you see what is being called, you know, some of the worst flooding on record in modern times."

Her agency puts the death toll at 269 in Thailand, 183 in Cambodia, 30 in Laos and 18 in Vietnam, including 16 children.

Record Mekong Flooding Threatens Bangkok, Phnom Penh

Thai soldiers pile up sandbags to make a flood barrier in Pathumthani province, central Thailand, 11 October 2011. AP

By THANYARAT DOKSONE, with Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Penh, Associated Press
10 October 2011

Thai authorities are rushing to build sandbag barricades in the capital to protect it from the worst floods in decades that have already killed nearly 270 people across the country.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said Monday that government workers have two days to build three major water barricades before runoff from the north reaches Bangkok. Unusually high ocean tides are expected to worsen the floods.

The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department said 269 people have died, mostly from drowning, since tropical storms began hitting Thailand at the end of July. It said 8.2 million people in 60 of the country's 77 provinces have been affected by floods and mudslides, and 30 provinces are currently inundated.

Yingluck said she didn't know if Bangkok would be protected from the flooding.

"It is really hard to tell because it's difficult to predict the volume of water," she told reporters. "But I insist if we can complete the three main water barriers within the next one or two days, Bangkok will be safe."

The government planned to use 1.5 million sandbags to build the barriers but still lacked more than 100,000 as of Monday.

In Ayutthaya province to the north, flooding forced more than 200 factories in two industrial zones to shut, including Japanese automobile giant Honda, whose production plant suffered water damage.

Floods also inundated Thailand's eastern neighbor Cambodia, where at least 207 people have died since August, when waters from the Mekong River and mountainous areas began rushing into lowland areas, said Nhim Vanda, deputy chief of the National Committee for Disaster Management. He said the dead included 83 children.

Although Cambodia's death toll was lower than Thailand's, proportionately it was much higher, since it has less than one quarter the population of its richer and bigger neighbor.

The floods have affected 1.2 million people and damaged more than 1,000 schools and 400 Buddhist temples, Nhim Vanda said. He said the waters also swept away some 600 houses and destroyed 395,000 acres (160,000 hectares) of rice fields.

The flooding is the deadliest to hit Cambodia since 2000, when 374 people were killed.

Hundreds of people have been killed across Southeast Asia, China, Japan and South Asia in the last four months from prolonged monsoon flooding, typhoons and storms.

Thai capital bracing for arrival of flood waters


  1. Steve Bloom said...

    Well, strictly speaking Bangkok can't be threatened by Mekong flooding since it isn't even in the Mekong basin (although close by).  


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