ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
PM invokes natural disaster law
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Friday invoked powers under the natural disaster law, giving her full authority to execute a natural disaster relief plan nationwide.
The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act (2007) gives the prime minister full authority over officials around the country. Those who refuse to follow orders can be prosecuted for negligence of duty. It makes the prime minister director of the relief operation.
Ms. Yingluck said the move was necessary to streamline relief operations.
She has ordered the Defence Ministry and the army to protect key places including the Grand Palace, other palaces, Siriraj Hospital, flood barrier lines, utilities units, and Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports.
The government has struggled to channel the massive amount of water that has caused widespread flooding in the country’s Central Plains, around the outskirts of Bangkok.
The floods are the worst in at least five decades. It is estimated that water will flow into the Bangkok city area tonight and the government is trying to channel it out to the sea through the eastern and western outskirts of the capital.
The floodwalls will not be able to protect Bangkok from the huge amount of water running down from the North, national army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Friday.
He said the total volume of water flowing from the North into Ayutthaya, Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani was immense.
"The high velocity of the current means it can break through the barricades and enter Bangkok, as now expected, since they're not permanent structures," Gen Prayuth said.
The government, the army and all other agencies have been trying their best to fight off the powerful flow and drain the water into the eastern and western outskirts of Bangkok, the army chief said.
However, the floodwaters will have to pass through some areas of Bangkok so they can be released rapidly out into the sea.
He said the temporary dykes can only slow down the flow of water, giving authorities more time to assist the people.
No major damage has occurred yet, and life is mostly normal in most of the capital. But many Bangkokians are girding for the worst.
"The water is coming, it's inevitable," Oraphin Jungkasemsuk, a 40-year-old employee of Bangkok Bank's headquarters, said Thursday. Its outer wall is protected by a six-foot-high (two-meter-high) wall of sandbags wrapped in thin plastic sheeting.
"They are fighting a massive pool of water. They cannot control it anymore," Oraphin said. "There are barriers, but it can come into the city from any direction, even up through the drains."
Much is at stake. Economic analysts say the floods have already cut Thailand's 2011 GDP projections by as much as 2 percent. Damages could run as high as $6 billion - an amount that could double if floods swamp Bangkok.
This week, Bangkok's governor called for 1 million sandbags to reinforce vulnerable spots - on top of 1 million more called for earlier this month. The Thai military and volunteers have been bolstering flood walls that ring Bangkok for miles (kilometers), many of them along a complex network of swamped canals.
Oraphin Milintanon, who works at a camera shop in the capital where customers must step across sandbags to get inside, has watched the floods advance with increasing alarm.
The water first swept through her hometown in the now-heavily submerged city of Ayutthaya, just north of Bangkok. Then it poured through her current home in Nonthaburi province.
Oraphin now lives with a sister in a dry part of Bangkok, but tales of water creeping closer are spooking residents. She said her brother, living elsewhere in Nonthaburi, was recently awaken by the flood water itself - which welled up suddenly into his home as he slept on his bed.
"It can come very fast ... the problem is, nobody knows from where it will come," Oraphin said Thursday. The only thing certain, she added, "We know it is coming soon.
Admitting that the Pathum Thani flood situation was out of control, the Northern Rangsit Irrigation Office predicted yesterday that Bangkok would be inundated.
Office executive Chuchat Supawatthanangkul said the water flowing through Rapeepat Canal had destroyed several parts of the floodwall along Klong Luang district's Canals 1 to 5. Flowing at 70 cubic metres per second, this water would inundate Klong Luang and Thanyaburi districts, run through the Rangsit Prasertsak Canal and certainly flood Bangkok, he said.
Around noon yesterday, a 3metre-long section of floodwall along the Rangsit Canal at Chulalongkorn sluice gate near Rangsit market collapsed, but officials repaired it as residents were evacuated. As water levels rose, people guarded floodwalls while others strengthened them with sandbags.
At Pathum Thani correctional institution by Canal 5, 500 female inmates were evacuated, but 1,500 male prisoners remained because there was no place to hold them. They tried to pump out flood water seeping into the building, which is protected by a 3metre-high floodwall.
Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) are facing the worst supply disruptions since the March earthquake that crippled Japan, leading investors to scramble assessing the financial toll of the floods in Thailand.
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said this week Thailand’s worst floods in half a century set back supply of components used in Mac computers, while Toyota suspended production of its Camry and Prius vehicles in the kingdom. Western Digital Corp. (WDC), the world’s largest maker of hard-disk drives, warned it will post a loss this quarter and production won’t return to normal for months.
The floods have claimed more than 300 lives since July and shuttered more than 14,000 businesses in a country that makes about a quarter of the world’s hard-disk drives and serves as the Southeast Asian production hub for Japanese carmakers. While the government estimates damages of as much as 120 billion baht ($3.9 billion), disruptions to the global supply chain may be underestimated, according to BGC Partners Inc. (BGCP) “The damage could be far, far bigger,” said Amir Anvarzadeh, Singapore-based manager for Asian equity sales at broker BGC. “I would be going after the supply chain and buy as many hard drives as I can.”
The floods have spread across 61 of the country’s 77 provinces since late July and threaten to swamp parts of Bangkok. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra today warned all residents in the capital to move their belongings to higher floors as waters approached.
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