Thailand issues new flood warnings from seasonal rain
BANGKOK (AP) — Officials in Thailand issued fresh warnings Tuesday about flooding caused by seasonal monsoon rains, after at least seven deaths were reported in the aftermath of a tropical storm that struck over the weekend.
The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said one person was also reported missing from flooding triggered by Tropical Storm Dianmu, also called Tianmu. The agency announced late Tuesday that 126,781 households in 30 provinces, mostly in the north, northeast and central regions had been affected, a 78% increase over the 71,093 reported a day earlier.
The capital, Bangkok, is among the areas issued warnings, and some businesses began piling sandbags in front of their entrances.
Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang said on his Facebook page that heavy rain is predicted across the country until Thursday.
Residents of the the capital are used to flooding from local storms during the annual rainy season. But the city is also vulnerable to rising water from the Chao Phraya River, which flows down from the north.
Bangkok has had no major flooding, but many rural areas have been severely affected. Thai television has shown villagers in several areas walking through waist-high water or evacuated from their homes on small boats.
Flood warnings have been issued since last week and have been reinforced as rain continues. The Chao Phraya Dam, in Chai Nat province, 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Bangkok, has been ordered to increase the amount of water it discharges to make room for more water coming from further north, the Bangkok Post reported, saying villagers downstream have been warned of the flooding risk.
There is concern that the situation could be similar to 2011, when upstream reservoirs holding water for irrigation had to release huge amounts of rainwater from several storms into the Chao Phraya, whose levels rose significantly and inundated parts of Bangkok.
The 2011 flooding, considered the country’s worst in half a century, took at least 600 lives and caused $45 billion in damage, according to a World Bank estimate.
Konlawat Sapsongsuk, chief of the National Disaster Warning Center, told The Associated Press that the major dams in the north are not yet near capacity this year, so for the time being pose little threat.
Konlawat said his agency closely monitors water levels and flows. A floodgate at Bangsai district in Ayutthaya, 68 kilometers (42 miles) north of Bangkok, provides one warning signal.
“If the water flows through the floodgate at Bangsai with a speed of 3,500 cubic meters per second, it will affect Bangkok. But at the moment, the speed is less than 2,600,” he said.
Konlawat said the Thai Meteorological Department is closely monitoring other storms that may sweep through Thailand after Oct. 8-9.