Mass Exodus From Bangkok Ahead of Floodwaters

Posted October 28th, 2011 at 9:45 am (UTC-5)
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Tens of thousands of people are pouring out of Bangkok, attempting to escape floodwaters that are slowly swallowing the city.

Bangkok residents flocked to airports as well as train and bus stations Friday, while others were trying to drive their way out. Many headed south to areas of higher elevation.

Already, ankle-high water seeping from the banks of the Chao Phraya River has surrounded the city's iconic Grand Palace and officials worry those water levels will rise in the coming days.

Officials are bracing for the river to overflow its banks. The Reuters news agency said Defense Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa was warning residents the flooding could last for at least two months. He told reporters Friday he wanted Bangkok residents “to accept the problem,” adding the government would try to fix the situation.

Thai officials blame the country's worst flooding in half a century for 377 deaths.

They are also starting to measure the economic hit.

The Bank of Thailand Friday cut its projections for the country's economic growth almost in half, slashing it from 4.1 percent to just 2.6 percent.

Bangkok residents have been doing what they can to fight the floodwaters, piling sandbags outside their homes and businesses. They have also stocked up on supplies. Many supermarket shelves are empty while some stores are rationing bottled water and other essentials.

Meanwhile, residents in many hard-hit provinces north of Bangkok have been wading through waist-deep flooded streets in makeshift boats.

The disaster has forced the closure of Bangkok's second-largest airport, the Don Muang airport, which mainly handles domestic flights.

Government officials had been considering a proposal to dig channels into some of Bangkok's roads to help the waters drain, but they seemed to back away from the idea Friday.