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Floods continue to threaten central Bangkok

Updated On: Nov 08, 2011

Floodwaters reached the outskirts of the inner city of Bangkok over the weekend, although the commercial heart of the city remains dry. Floodwaters continue to be pumped away from the inundated provinces in the north of the capital, with city authorities being given twice as many pumps to help the relief effort.

In the latest report on the duration of the floods, Thailand's energy minister, Pichai Naripthaphan, has said that they may continue for another month, though waters may subside from the capital by mid November.

As residents and cityworkers struggled to clean up trash and debry brought by floodwaters in their neighbourhoods, humanitarian organisations expressed concern over increasingly dirty water.

Meanwhile, floods have encircled two more industrial estates in the capital, reaching sandbag barriers around their perimeters. Consumer goods giants Unilever Pcl, Johnson & Johnson, Isuzu Motors and Honda Motor Co all have plants on the two estates.

Despite these threats, so-called 'Big Bags' - huge sandbags weighing 2.5 tonnes - to build a protective wall 18 km (10 miles) long across the north of the city have largely been successful in reducing flows into the inner city along the first 6 km constructed.

Report: Thailand floods: Bangkok evacuation widens [BBC News, 7 November 2011]
Report: Floods encircle Bangkok industrial estates [Reuters, 7 November 2011]
Report: Energy Minister says Bangkok floods to last month [AP, 8 November 2011]

Tourism

Although the main business district has remained dry, tourism to the city has been badly hit, with the leisure business "disappearing for the time being," according to Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Officer John Slosar on Friday. “If you have an option to go, probably you won’t because nobody can quite tell what you’ll get when you get there, he said.”

The threat has forced airlines including Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines to cut flights, and forced cancellations at hotels to alter dates of meetings, events and holidays.

“I’m worried that no one can guarantee floods will not enter inner Bangkok,” said Prakit Chinamourphong, president of the Thai Hotels Association, which represents about 765 of the nation’s 4,000 hotels.

Travel warnings have also deterred visitors to the capital, with group tours to Bangkok, particularly from China and Hong Kong, being postponed, said the Tourism Council’s Piyaman.

Report: Bangkok Tourists Vanish on Floods Leaving Hotel Bars Empty [Bloomberg, 7 November 2011)

Clean-up

In response to the disaster, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has outlined more details of Bangkok's cleanup, and is planning to propose to her Cabinet on Tuesday an initial budget of 100 billion baht, or $3.3 billion, to rebuild roads, homes and hospitals in affected regions.

Given the extent of the clean up needed, many are already predicting the final bill could be much higher. Ms. Shinawatra will also visit Ayutthaya province, where many industrial parks are located, to oversee drainage operations as water levels begin to fall.

Analysts say the governments response could determine whether foreign manufacturers choose to reinvest in Thailand or relocate to other countries.

Report: Bangkok Struggles to Clear Trash in Flood Crisis [WSJ, 7 November 2011]







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