Bangkok floods to ease in early November: PM

Floods engulfing parts of the Thai capital should start to recede soon, the prime minister said Saturday after barriers along Bangkok's swollen main river prevented a disastrous overflow.

The city of 12 million people was on heightened alert because of a seasonal high tide that was expected to coincide with the arrival of runoff water from the central plains, where people have endured weeks of flood misery.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has previously warned the floods could last for weeks, said the authorities had expedited the flow of runoff water from the north through canals in the east and west of the capital.

"If everyone works hard ... then the floodwater in Bangkok will start to recede in the first week of November," Yingluck said in a weekly radio and television address to the nation.

She said the overall flood situation in central parts of Thailand had improved and volumes of water flowing through Bangkok's main river, the Chao Phraya, had decreased.

Yingluck's two-month-old administration has faced public criticism for giving confusing advice about the extent of the flood threat.

For a third day running there was minor flooding in Bangkok's riverside areas, including by the Grand Palace, but the high tide of 2.5 metres (eight feet) above sea level was lower than feared and most of the city was dry.

"I'm not too worried. It's only a little bit of water. It's not similar to outside Bangkok," said Sidaphat Ausanarassamee, 32, standing behind a wall of sandbags in front of her small wicker shop in Chinatown.

"It affects my business. Nobody is buying anything," she added, laughing, as children played in knee-high water in the street and orange-clad monks snapped pictures of the scene with their mobile telephones.

Within Bangkok, residential areas in the northern outskirts of the city, as well as on the western side of the Chao Phraya river have so far been worst hit, with waist-deep water in places.

The government announced it was moving its emergency flood relief centre from the city's second airport Don Mueang after rising water led to a power blackout.

Tens of thousands of residents have left Bangkok, with many heading to coastal resorts away from the path of the water, after the government declared a special five-day holiday.

The three-month crisis -- triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains -- has left at least 381 people dead and damaged millions of homes and livelihoods, mostly in northern and central Thailand.

The Pentagon said Thailand had asked a US destroyer to extend its stay at a main port to allow two American helicopters to survey the deadly flood waters.

Most of the country's top tourist destinations and the main airport have been unaffected although countries including the United States and Britain have advised against all but essential travel to Bangkok.

French tourist Philippe Ponel, 24, on his first trip to Thailand, was among those taking pictures of inundated streets in Chinatown.

"I think the people in Bangkok don't fear the floods at all. They just keep going on with their daily lives. I saw people cooking in the streets with water all around them," he said.


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