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In a bid to save the economic heart of the capital amid surging water levels, the government has finally opted to use the eastern part of Bangkok to drain massive amounts of floodwaters from the northern outskirts.
Information and Communication Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap yesterday said the government has to save the heart of Bangkok which is densely populated and housed important economic areas. Its protection would speed up rehabilitation of other parts of the country.
Mr Anudit said flood concerns had arisen at Lat Krabang Industrial Estate in Lat Krabang district and authorities were trying to protect the compound.
The drainage of floodwaters through eastern Bangkok will affect seven of its districts, namely Sai Mai, Klong Sam Wa, Kannayao, Min Buri, Lat Krabang, Bang Khen and Nong Chok.
From the eastern part of the capital, floodwaters will be diverted to Chachoengsao and Samut Prakan and then flow into the Gulf of Thailand.
The Flood Relief Operations Centre (Froc) last night warned people in five provinces in the Central Plains including Bangkok to move belongings to high ground to brace for more floodwaters.
Justice Minister Pracha Promnok, the centre's director, said the Froc will issue immediate warnings if the flood situations in those areas worsen and people have to evacuate their homes.
The warning was issued after Chalit Damrongsak, director-general of the Irrigation Department, reported that floodwaters from Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani were flowing at 120 million cubic metres per second to eastern Bangkok, 100 million cu m/s to western Bangkok and 480 million cu m/s from 300,000 rai of fields from the Raphiphat canal to the Rangsit Prayoonsak canal north of Bangkok.
The massive surge of floodwaters had led to unsuccessful attempts to block water from entering the capital with layers of dykes in Pathum Thani province. Powerful floodwaters are breaking through the dykes and expanding in areas of Pathum Thani, gradually closing in on the capital.
Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra also issued the first warning of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) yesterday for people in seven districts of the city to move their belongings to high ground and prepare for possible evacuation. He also ordered an evacuation of about 1,400 families living by Khlong Hok Wa and Khlong 2 canals.
More than 8 billion cu m of floodwaters are flowing from Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani towards Bangkok.
The Chao Phraya River discharges less than 200 million cu m/day while attempts to divert floodwater via the east and west of the capital can drain only about 86 million cu m daily.
Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, an adviser to the centre's director, said Bangkok would have to help its outskirts drain the floodwaters.
She also recommended that Bangkok's eastern ring road from Bang Na to Bang Pa-in should effectively function as an eastern dyke of the capital.
The government also wants to drain floodwaters through three canals in inner Bangkok, namely the Song Ton Noon, Saen Saep and Prawet canals.
But MR Sukhumbhand yesterday said the drainage through the canals would be limited. "If we are able to fully receive floodwater [through the canals], we will do that but we must wait for the rains to stop. If we are safe from rain and need not limit water [in the canals], we will open them. The BMA must manage risks," he said.
Asked if the refusal to open the inner canals would affect the water level in Khlong Rangsit, MR Sukhumbhand said Khlong Rangsit was not his responsibility but the government's.