News / Asia

Tensions Mount in Thai Capital as Floodwaters Devastate Suburbs

Tempers flared Monday along a barrier protecting the Thai capital from record flooding, with angry residents outside the flood wall overpowering security forces to force open a floodgate that left their homes under water.

The confrontation in the city's northeastern sector came as Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra voiced renewed focus on repairing ruptures in the barriers that are allowing water to seep into central Bangkok  -- home to hundreds of cultural landmarks, including the Grand Palace and a host of tourist attractions.

"Today Bangkok residents might feel that the water level hasn't gone down because in some canals the broken barriers haven't been fixed, so the water comes in. So we've speeded up the repair at several spots. Last night we asked the private sector to help out so there are a few spots we're rushing to fix. Once the problem is solved we can be less worried," Yingluck said.

As Yingluck spoke of saving the central city, desperate residents near the, Klong Sam Wa, floodgate used hammers and pickaxes to break through an earthen dike around the floodgate to release rising water.  Television footage showed residents pushing aside police trying to stop them.

The master plan to save Bangkok's inner city continues to spawn widespread resentment in residential areas outside the flood barriers, where tens of thousands of residents have been left to fend for themselves as water courses through residential streets and destroys homes and belongings.

One resident, Ar-pa Ketpradit, of a district north of Bangkok said that in his neighborhood, the water still seems to be rising. "The water level has not receded, it keeps rising, not receding. It will rise in the morning from 9 to 10 am, it will rise and will not recede,'' he said.

He said he does not know when it will recede.

Months of flooding across central Thailand have sent massive amounts of water southward toward the capital -- its last obstacle on the way to the sea. The flood peak in Bangkok has coincided with unusually high tides which have acted to push floodwaters back up the Chao Phraya River.

Tens of thousands of residents in the metropolitan area of 12 million residents have fled the area in recent days on bamboo rafts, vans, army trucks or on foot, heading for higher ground in the south.  Many have flown out of the city.

The flooding that began in July, the country's worst in 50 years, has already claimed more than 380 lives.  The material losses are yet to be determined.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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