Highest rainfall in 50 years for Thailand; more to come

THAILAND - Bangkok residents can expect more downpours and likely flooding over the next few days.

According to the Meteorological Department's forecast, thunderstorms will affect most parts of Bangkok and its adjacent provinces until next Monday. Cloudbursts are expected in many areas too.

Following hour-long downpours, traffic became paralysed in several parts of Bangkok as dozens of roads were swamped. Bangkok's total rainfall this month is already the highest for any month in five decades.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has warned residents that it takes several hours for all the water to drain after a heavy downpour. It says the capital's water-drainage system is designed to deal with up to 60 millimetres of rainfall only.

"Please be patient and be |understanding," Deputy Bangkok Governor Wallop Suwandee said yesterday.

He said the BMA had installed pumps at flood-prone spots to |minimise the impact on the public.

He was speaking as Bangkok commuters had to wade through floodwaters in many parts of the |city yesterday, including along Vibhavadi-Rangsit and Ratchadaphisek roads.

Sanya Sheenimit, head of the BMA Drainage and Sewerage Department, said that in just a few hours, 93 millimetres of rain fell on Rama IX Road yesterday.

"The rainfall on Vibhavadi-Rangsit was also really heavy," he said.

Wallop admitted the BMA was now worried about rainfall levels. According to available statistics, total rainfall over the 24-hour period ending at 3pm yesterday was 107mm in Pom Prab district, 133mm in Phya Thai district and 134mm in Huai Khwang district.

Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra said the BMA had a plan to construct three more giant water-drainage tunnels in the capital to better prevent flooding.

"Today, we have just one giant tunnel and it can cover 50 square kilometres of area only. Bangkok spans more than 1,600 square km," he said.

In a related development, Deputy Government Spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had assigned Deputy Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan to prepare a plan to solve flooding and traffic problems in Bangkok and its adjacent provinces.

The Chatchart-headed panel is expected to prepare a key strategy by FridaySeptember 28 and present it to the Cabinet at its next meeting.

According to Anusorn, the |strategy includes turning some |government facilities into tem-porary water-retention areas in |the wake of downpours, and adjusting work hours of government officials.

"The chiefs of government agencies in Bangkok and its adjacent provinces may allow their subordinates to leave early if weather forecasts show downpours are coming their way and arrange for substitution work hours later," Anusorn said.

Meanwhile, Phichit province has declared four of its districts as flood disaster-hit zones. These four districts, Sam Ngam, Pho Prathap Chang, Bung Narang and Pho Thale, are located by the Yom River.

In Prachin Buri, the Prachin Buri River overflowed into riverside communities. In Ta Prachum market, floodwater was more than 90 centimetres deep.

In Ranong, the provincial disaster prevention and mitigation office issued a warning of flash floods, overflows, landslides and mudslides.

"Small boats should not put out to sea," said the office's chief, Chaowalit Nitornrat.

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