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Thai Officials Say Bangkok Still Threatened By Flooding

Thai flood relief volunteers, October 17, 2011.

Thai flood relief volunteers, October 17, 2011.

Thai authorities say the capital Bangkok is still facing a threat of flooding if it is hit with more heavy rains. Intense relief efforts are underway after the worst flooding in decades swept two-thirds of the country, swamping farmland and factories and leaving 300 people dead.

Thai officials are assuring the public that Bangkok is safe from flooding as they continue to build up barriers and mobilize relief efforts.

Despite waters pushing down on the city’s northern outskirts, authorities say flood waters are receding and fast dredging of canals helped divert much of it away from the capital and out to sea.

Pracha Promnok is minister of justice and director of Thailand’s flood relief. He assured journalists Monday that they can manage the situation, unless, he says, there is more rain.

He says as far as the risk of Bangkok flooding is concerned, they are working to build a defensive wall. He names three areas surrounding Bangkok’s north that he says are acting as protective barriers. He says they are confident they will succeed.

But Thailand, like much of Southeast Asia, has been experiencing an unusually long wet season this year.

Several tropical storms have swept across the region, leaving hundreds of people dead and swamping low-lying farmland and factories.

As hydropower dams filled to capacity, authorities were forced to release more water, adding to the misery downstream.

Hundreds of volunteers have massed at Bangkok’s Don Muang airport to help with flood relief efforts for thousands of people forced to evacuate their homes in the central plains.

Groups of students sit on the floor filling plastic bags with instant noodles, boxes of milk, and hygiene products such as instant hand sanitizer.

They then form a human chain passing the full bags onto massive piles which are later put on large trucks for distribution at evacuation shelters.

Anuttama Amornvivat is deputy government spokeswoman. She says Bangkok’s flood barriers can hold overflow, so there is no need yet for residents in the capital to worry about evacuating.

“If we have the situation that not… that will affected people, we will definitely have the press conference and warn people ahead of time, for sure, to evacuate and you know, moving out of the area, out of the danger area,” Amornvivat stated.

High tides expected at the end of the month could also slow draining of flood waters around Bangkok, which is only a couple of meters above sea level.