Thai Soldiers Rush to Reinforce Bangkok Flood Walls

Posted October 18th, 2011 at 11:30 am (UTC-5)
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Thai soldiers and government workers scrambled on Tuesday to pile more than a million sandbags onto flood walls protecting northern Bangkok, after officials voiced new worries that flood defenses were weakening.

The new push comes 24 hours after officials said the major flood threat to the city had passed. But authorities later discovered new weaknesses in barriers on the Chao Phraya river, where an industrial estate was submerged overnight Sunday into Monday. Authorities say they hope to finish the emergency work by Wednesday.

United Nations' officials monitoring the region-wide disaster said the death toll had risen on Tuesday to more than 700 in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines since torrential rains and tropical storms began hammering the region in late July. A U.N. statement said 8.3 million people have been affected by what forecasters are calling the worst flooding in half a century.

A Thai government finance official is quoted by Reuters news agency as saying the disaster is likely to shrink the economy by 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter from last year.

Cambodian officials say their economy will also suffer, with growth expected to be reduced this year by 6 to 7 percent.

Emergency officials were on the front lines north of Bangkok Tuesday, urging soldiers and workers to improve their efforts.