Hundreds flee homes in Ratchaburi

Hundreds of locals fled their homes with their belongings to escape fast-rising floodwater from the swelling Mae Klong River in Ratchaburi yesterday.

Many houses near river banks and in low-lying areas in Ratchaburi were inundated after Tha Muang dam in neighbouring Kanchanaburi began releasing water at 1,400 cubic metres per second into the Mae Klong River, scaring residents.

A high sea tide yesterday morning worsened the situation, with floodwaters rising to over two metres.

The flood damaged vast areas of pomelo, lychee, lemon and banana orchards in Ban Pong, Photharam, Muang and Wat Phleng districts of Ratchaburi.

Samanant Laowanitwisit, mayor of Muang municipality, led a survey of flood damage in the municipal areas.

Khanit Shinnawong, Ratchaburi irrigation chief, said the water level in the Mae Klong River rose yesterday by 50-60cm at its peak, affecting riverside residents and those in low-lying areas in Ban Pong, Photharam, and Muang districts.

The water later receded after the Mae Klong dam release eased, reducing the water level in the river to about 70-80cm.

Water levels are expected to return to normal within the next couple of days, he added.

Meanwhile, the discharge of water from the upstream Chao Phraya dam in Chai Nat caused flooding in low-lying areas in Ang Thong, which is facing a third round of flooding so far this year.

Samrit Maliwan, 56, a villager in tambon Pong Peng of Pa Mok district, said more than 20 houses along the Pong Peng canal have been inundated for the third time, with floodwater as high as one metre.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said only two provinces _ Kanchanaburi and Prachin Buri _ remained flooded.

Ms Yingluck spoke during a video conference with provincial governors and Interior Ministry officials.

She praised the single command centre, set up recently by the central Water and Flood Management Commission and the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, for helping authorities deal swiftly with the flooding.

Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri said 13 people drowned and another was electrocuted during this month's flooding in 11 provinces.

The ministry had sent medical mobile units and teams of health officials and volunteers to provide health services to flood victims, the minister said.

A total of 69,005 people fell ill during the flooding.

Khon Kaen governor Somsak Suwansudjarit said the Ubolrat dam is holding less water than it did last year, triggering fears of drought in next year's dry season.

The dam was only 45% full, with 1,110.45 million cubic metres of water in its storage capacity, Mr Somsak said.

Over the past one or two months, only 600 million cu/m of water flowed into the dam, which is four times less than last year's amount, he said.

State agencies should efficiently manage water for use in tap-water production and agricultural, fisheries ad livestock sectors, the governor said.

So far this year, drought has ravaged Si Chomphu and Chum Phae districts, affecting 806 households. Damage was initially estimated at 3.7 million baht, he said.

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