News / Asia

Flood Waters Move In on Bangkok, Thailand

Thai residents wade through floodwaters to buy food at a hypermarket in Bangkok, Thailand, October 27, 2011.
Thai residents wade through floodwaters to buy food at a hypermarket in Bangkok, Thailand, October 27, 2011.
Daniel Schearf

Thai authorities say flood waters creeping down from the north could soon swamp the Thai capital, Bangkok, leading thousands of people to leave the city.

Thai monks, soldiers, and local people hammered particle boards in between two concrete walls along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.

They dropped sandbags into the space between the walls, extending the height by about half a meter.

The hope is that the makeshift barrier will prevent, or at least slow down, flood waters from entering the Kaew-Fah-Chulamani temple.

Phra Rattanamaythee, head monk at the temple, says he thinks the mass of water headed to Bangkok will probably spill over the wall. But, he says as long as the water is not too high they can still live on the temple’s second floor.

He says the flood disaster is worse than in past years. The government and people tried to prevent it, but the water mass is a larger amount this time. He says they have used all of their personnel and equipment, but could not stop the water. He says they have done their best.

The swollen river is already seeping through flood barriers, covering a nearby neighborhood in shoe-deep water.

Machines hum away at the Bang Sue water pumping station just between the flooded neighborhood and the temple.

Thammarat, an officer at the station, says the water level today was much higher than yesterday and admits the station itself could soon be flooded.

He says they will not evacuate the station. If it is flooded, he says, they will have to work constantly to pump out the water. He says they must be prepared because they cannot abandon the equipment. He repeats they will not evacuate.

While residents near the river and swollen drainage canals are already getting wet, most of central Bangkok is still dry. But many businesses are now racing to prepare for the water.  

On a busy downtown street, workers layer cement and stack cinder blocks in front of small shops, building up waist-high walls.

Across the street, a monstrous three-meter-high wall of sandbags is protecting a bank.

As more residents jammed highways and bus terminals for coastal areas or the mountains, sandbag and cement walls sprung up throughout the city.

Thai authorities say it is only a matter of time before flood waters seep into central Bangkok, though it is still not clear how widespread or deep they could get.

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