Widespread flooding in central and north—eastern Thailand caused by heavy monsoon rains claimed 32 lives this week and was threatening Bangkok, government reports said on Saturday.
Unusually heavy rains that started on October 10 have caused flooding in 30 of 77 provinces, affecting up to 1.4 million people and prompting an outpouring of government and private aid.
According to Thailand’s Emergency Medical Institute, at least 32 people, mostly children and the elderly, have drowned or died from electrocution since last weekend.
The hardest—hit provinces were Nakhon Ratchasima and Buriram in the north-east where local officials blamed rapid urbanization with little consideration for the environment and catchment areas as chief reasons that metre—high floodwaters inundated the provinces’ main cities this week.
Some people criticized the government for not issuing early warnings to flood—prone areas, especially in remote districts.
Bangkok, a city of 10 million, has been put on high alert for possible flooding on Sunday and Monday from the swollen Chao Phrya River, which runs through the capital.
As they reach the city, the floodwaters were set to run into a surge of water coming upriver from high tide in the Gulf of Thailand, Irrigation Department officials said.
Heavy rainfall in the area at the same time could seriously compound the problem, experts warned.
Irrigation Department officials have had to release water from the Chao Phrya Dam in Chainat province, 160 kilometres north of Bangkok.
Other dams in central Thailand are also releasing water into the Chao Phrya’s tributaries.
Bangkok authorities have piled sandbags along 77 kilometres of flood walls on the riverbank, but hundreds of homes near the Chao Phrya were expected to be affected.
Government and private—sector sources estimated that the floods had already caused 265 million dollars in damage.