21 Oct 2011

Thai PM orders opening of flood gates

10:18 pm on 21 October 2011

Thailand's prime minister has ordered the opening of flood gates in the capital, Bangkok, to try to drain flood waters that are moving in from the north of the city into the sea.

A massive volume of run-off water is expected to reach the city by the weekend, putting a huge strain on Bangkok's flood defences and a heavy burden on people in severely affected areas just outside the capital.

Speaking at an emergency meeting, Yingluck Shinawatra said opening the gates would drain water into the sea as soon as possible.

"At the same time, water pumps will help pump out water and city officials will clear waterways of hyacinth plants," she said.

She has asked residents not to panic if water suddenly rises in city canals and warned that serious flooding in parts of the city is inevitable.

The ABC reports there has been panic buying of basic supplies following the warning and sandbagging was underway in the centre of the city despite the head of the governemnt's flood effort reassuring people 90% of the city should be safe.

It also points out that the order to open the floodgates is a total backflip by the government, which until now has been attempting to divert water from the flooded north around the city to keep the metropolitan area dry.

Thailand has been hit by three months of heavy monsoon rains that have killed 320 people, damaged the homes and livelihoods of millions of other, mostly in north and central Thailand, and forced tens of thousands to seek refuge in shelters.