Flooding Closes Bangkok Airport

Posted October 25th, 2011 at 7:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Floodwaters in Thailand reached Bangkok's domestic airport Tuesday, halting commercial flights and forcing people who had taken refuge there to head further south for safety.

Bangkok's main international airport, southeast of the city, was not affected. But the Don Muang airport, located near flooded districts in the city's northern suburbs, has been operating as the hub for relief efforts and a shelter for thousands of people affected by the floods.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra Tuesday met with the opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who promised his moral support to the government during the crisis.

The Cabinet also approved more than $8 billion in loans to help flooded manufacturers, small and medium enterprises and independent businesses, and declared four days of public holidays at the end of October to help communities recover from the floods. Economists estimate the economic losses could reach more than $6 billion.

The Australian ambassador to Thailand, James Wise, said he was optimistic that the country would recover but expressed concern over medium-term health issues. Public health officials have already reported some 750,000 cases of water-borne skin infections and said the longer-term concerns lie with the threat of diseases such as the mosquito-borne dengue fever.

The 2011 monsoon season has led to nearly 800 deaths across Southeast Asia. Almost half the deaths occurred in Thailand, followed by Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines.

The United Nations says aid workers are struggling to help more than 8 million people across the region, with thousands still receiving little or no assistance.