Troops step in to tackle flooding
Government lends support to embattled city governor
The government has instructed the military to help embattled city governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra tackle flooding, as torrential rain again defied forecasters and slammed the capital early yesterday.
Soldiers have been deployed across the city to help workers drain flood water and assist police direct traffic after yesterday’s pre-dawn downpour.
The rain had not been predicted to arrive until today.
According to the latest weather forecast from the Meteorological Department yesterday, rain will continue to lash up to 60% of the capital over the next seven days, ramping up pressure on City Hall to relieve flooding that has followed several heavy downpours in the past week.
Following the deluge that left large parts of the city underwater last Monday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ordered the armed forces to prepare emergency relief measures for future flooding, deputy government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.
The measures include providing military trucks to transport stranded commuters, as the army did during the 2011 floods, Maj Gen Sansern said.
Gen Prayut has also ordered Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda to work closely with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to handle flood management.
MR Sukhumbhand came under heavy criticism over the city’s slow drainage of floodwaters which inundated many roads during Monday morning rush hour, causing traffic chaos and forcing some schools to cancel classes.
The governor was at a meeting in the Netherlands at the time, and was forced to rush home on Wednesday.
He has vowed that city officials, police and soldiers will work together and deal with stricken areas “more quickly”.
MR Sukhumbhand yesterday ordered city officials in all 50 districts of the capital to brace for more torrential rain and closely monitor flood-prone areas “around the clock”.
He also bemoaned forecasters’ failure to predict the recent rainstorms.
“It is worrying that the rain situation recently has run counter to the weather forecast,” he told a meeting of district chiefs.
The governor told the meeting that city officials must brace for more heavy rain as the wet season enters full swing.
He also stressed the need for city officials to work with the military and police to help ease traffic problems during any future flooding.
MR Sukhumbhand pointed to the need to drain water from small alleys and housing estates, instead of focusing exclusively on main roads.
He said BMA agencies must coordinate to provide timely weather warnings so residents have time to prepare.
“Each district chief must be armed with response plans and be capable of deploying staff and resources to cope with floods,” the governor said.
He added that it is necessary for Bangkok district chiefs to visit flooded areas and direct relief efforts to those in need. According to city clerk Sanya Chenimit, Bangkok received rainfall totalling 591 millimetres last week, about 17.2% higher than the
average of 504.4mm recorded in previous years.
Mr Sanya said more than 10,000 city officials have been deployed to flood-prone areas across the city to clear rubbish from canals and dredge gutters.
About 70% of the city’s canals have now been dredged, he said.
“The BMA officials are working hard. They are working at pumping stations to make sure water is being drained,” Mr Sanya said.
“Our officials are everywhere.”
He was responding to criticism on social media that only soldiers had been seen working to drain water during the downpour yesterday, and that no BMA workers were present.
But as Bangkok residents contend with flooding, farmers in nearby provinces continue to face persistent drought. Rice growers in the Chao Phraya River Basin have been told to delay their wet season crop due to falling water levels in major dams in the Central region, Maj Gen Sansern said yesterday.
Dams are not expected to by full until next month, at which point water will be released for irrigation, he said.
Crops that have already been planted are likely to be ruined due to water shortages, he added.