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Monday, October 10, 2011
Thailand Bolsters Defenses in Bangkok as Floodwaters Reach ‘Crisis’ Levels - Bloomberg
Thai officials rushed to reinforce barriers and widen canals in Bangkok on concern the nation’s worst floods in more than half a century may spread to the capital later this week.
The deluge swept across the country starting in late July, killing 269 people, swamping factories operated by Honda Motor Co., Nikon Corp. and Canon Inc. and damaging more than 10 percent of rice farms in the biggest exporter of the grain.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra opened army camps to help house some of the 2.4 million people displaced by the floods, and asked authorities to accelerate efforts to protect the capital. The finance ministry today cut its forecast for economic growth to 3.7 percent from 4 percent and said the disaster may cause 120 billion baht ($3.9 billion) of damage.
“It’s difficult to estimate the water volume, but if we can protect the flood barriers in three key points in the next one to two days, Bangkok should be saved,” Yingluck told reporters at Bangkok’s former international airport, which has been turned into the country’s main flood-management center.
The situation is “quite worrisome,” Bank of Thailand Governor Prasarn Trairatvorakul said, adding that agricultural industry losses may total as much as 20 billion baht.
In Bangkok, officials are rushing to build three additional flood barriers and plan to dig five more canals over the next seven days to drain water from the capital, Yingluck said.
Oct. 16 through Oct. 18 is the highest risk period for Bangkok, with low-lying areas near Suvarnabhumi airport and communities next to the river and canals the most vulnerable, the city’s Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said today by phone. Officials are shoring up flood walls, preparing evacuation plans and readying medical supplies, he said.
Some supermarkets in the capital reported shortages because of delivery disruptions and panic buying, said Saofang Ekaluckrujee, senior corporate affairs manager at Ek-Chai Distribution System Co., which operates Tesco Lotus hypermarkets in Thailand.
“There was panic buying of dry groceries such as instant noodles and rice at most of our stores in Bangkok,” Saofang said by phone. “In some stores, there were shortages of dry food because the flooding has affected logistics. We are trying everything to secure supplies to meet demand.”
Thailand’s government will provide as much as 200,000 metric tons of rice from its stockpiles and asked local producers of instant noodles, canned food and water to increase production to prevent shortages, Permanent Secretary for Commerce Yanyong Phuangrach told reporters yesterday.
“The situation is nowhere near crisis proportion just yet where food and water are concerned," said Sukhumbhand, the Bangkok governor. ‘‘Major arteries to transport all these things to Bangkok are still open, so I hope it’s just temporary.’’
North of Bangkok, authorities evacuated residents in the central province of Nakhon Sawan after a flood barrier was breached on the Chao Phraya river, said Wim Rungwattanajinda, a spokesman for the national flood center. As many as 650 patients are being evacuated from the province’s main hospital, Health Minister Wittaya Buranasiri told reporters today.
In Ayutthaya, 67 kilometers (42 miles) north of Bangkok, rising floodwaters broke through defenses around the Rojana Industrial Park, which is mostly a base for companies making automotive and electronics parts. The 198 plants have a combined investment value of 56 billion baht, and a total workforce of 90,000, said Suparp Kleekhajai, the vice industry minister.
Hundreds of Honda cars were damaged when dikes failed at the Rojana park, where the company produces as many 240,000 vehicles a year, said Pitak Pruittisarikorn, executive vice president of Honda’s Thai unit.
‘‘We will try to resume production at the plant as soon as we can, but we have to wait until the water situation is under control,” Pitak told reporters. “The water level hasn’t peaked yet. It’s still rising.” Pitak said the company is insured against flood damage.
Flood barriers are still protecting the Hi-Tech and Bang Pa-In industrial estates in Ayutthaya, Suparp said.
Hana Microelectronics Pcl, Thailand’s biggest semiconductor packager, said it may take 20 days to reinstall equipment even if the Hi-Tech facility escapes the flood.
Seasonal storms have affected more than 6 million people in Southeast Asia and claimed a further 224 lives in Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines, the United Nations said last week. Monsoons across Asia last month generated about $7 billion of losses, including $1.1 billion in Thailand, Aon Benfield, a reinsurer, said in a report on Oct. 5.
The deluge has affected 8.2 million people in Thailand since July 25, data from the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation show.
“There is no need to declare Bangkok a disaster zone yet because we can still control the situation,” Yingluck said today. “But we may need to assess the situation again when the new storm arrives.”