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Thailand’s Flood Defenses Failing



Powerful flood currents yesterday smash through a wall of large sandbags put up to stop overflow from the Yom River in Sukhothai. Workers are racing against time to rebuild the sandbag wall to prevent the run-off from reaching inner areas of the province


Chiangrai Times – Up to a quarter of Thailand’s provinces, including the tourist resort of Ayutthaya, have been inundated by flood waters amid concerns the government failed to act fast enough to strengthen flood defenses after last year’s devastating floods.

Thousands have fled their homes in Northern Thailand after heavy rain caused a major river to overflow at the start of the month, sending up to a meter of water into some towns. So far, four people have died.

Scenes of residents wading through waist-high water and stacking large sandbags around shops and homes in Sukhothai, about 430 km (265 miles) north of the capital Bangkok, are a stark reminder of last year’s floods that killed more than 800 people.

Thailand registered just 0.1 percent annual growth in 2011, largely as a result of the floods which swept down into Bangkok.

Although the latest flooding is not as bad as a year ago, another disaster could deal a blow to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s Puea Thai government which came under fire for mismanaging the 2011 crisis.

Industrial estates have scrambled to build flood walls and dredge nearby canals in time for this year’s rainy season, but other parts of the country remain vulnerable to sudden inundation.

“Barriers designed to prevent the Yom river from overflowing were in need of repair but this wasn’t done after last year’s floods,” Plodprasop Suraswadi, Thailand’s Water and Flood Management Commission, told local radio on Wednesday referring to a main river in the north.

Flood defenses at seven key industrial zones were badly hit in 2011, crippling Thailand’s electronics and auto sectors and crushing foreign investor confidence.

“Japanese companies are satisfied with the earth flood barriers we built this year and we’re ready if water reaches us,” said Somnuk Sansomboonsuk, director and project manager of Hi-Tech Industrial Estate, 60 km (40 miles) from Bangkok.

Meanwhile, the situation in Tak improved after heavy rain stopped, but low-lying areas and those near rivers and water remained flooded. Major roads, including the local Asia Route, linking Um Phang, Phob Phra and Mae Sot districts remained flooded, partly damaged or blocked by mudslides, the Um Phang district chief Suchart Theekhasuk said.

There were also warnings about heavy rain in the North, with 80 per cent of areas expected to be hit, especially in Tak, Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai. The weather bureau anticipated rain covering 40 per cent of areas elsewhere across the country, including Bangkok, with a slight drop in temperatures nationwide.



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