Thai PM Says Bangkok Largely Safe from Flooding

Posted October 14th, 2011 at 1:30 am (UTC-5)
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Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra reassured residents of Bangkok Friday that the capital should largely avoid the flooding that has devastated a third of the country since July.

The Thai leader told reporters that areas on the outer edge of the city could face some problems, but inner Bangkok has strong defenses and the situation is under control.

Bangkok's Flood Relief Center reported Thursday that water had breached a key floodgate, causing panic among some residents, but authorities quickly withdrew the report, calling it “erroneous.”

Almost 300 people have died in Thailand, most of them north of Bangkok in and near the ancient temple city of Ayutthaya. Authorities say 61 of Thailand's 76 provinces have been hit by the flooding, affecting more than 8 million people.

In Vietnam authorities reported nine more deaths Thursday from the flooding that has ravaged Southeast Asia's entire Mekong river basin, and forecasters predicted heavy rains in the region in the coming days. The total death toll in Vietnam is at least 43.

Officials said most of the dead are children, who were unable to escape the reach of Mekong's raging floodwaters. Officials say flooding has submerged nearly 70,000 homes, made roads impassible and forced the closure of hundreds of schools.

Meanwhile, forecasters continue to track tropical storm Banyan, which moved westward Thursday into the South China Sea, after inundating the Philippines with torrential rains and killing eight people earlier this week. The storm is expected to make landfall near the Chinese-Vietnamese border in the next few days.