Thai PM offers assurances on 'worst floods in history'

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra assured the public yesterday that the government was doing its best to tackle the country's "worst flood disaster in history" and to help people affected.

In her weekly radio programme, Yingluck said that of 56 flood-affected provinces, 10 were hard-hit: Nakhon Sawan, Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Lop Buri, Ang Thong, Sing Buri, Chai Nat, Uthai Thani and Chachoengsao.

Officials were trying to drain floodwater into the sea as fast as possible, Yingluck said, adding that she had instructed related agencies to prevent floodwater from getting into strategic and major economic locations such as business districts, industrial estates, airports, flood shelters, major provincial cities and inner Bangkok.

Because the Chao Phraya River is the best channel for draining floodwater, some 800 boats were set to help push water through Khlong Lat Pho to the sea, and 216 water pumps had been installed along the Chao Phraya, she said.

On the eastern side of the capital, three major canals had been dredged, and work was underway on four more.

On the western side, where floodwater is flowing through the Tha Chin River, the river's winding character made it necessary to dig shortcuts to speed up the drainage, while 171 water pumps and 100 water-pushing boats were in place, Yingluck said.

To protect Bangkok, three levees had been reinforced and heightened, she said. An additional 24km-long levee was being constructed between Klong Rapeepat and Pratunam Pra-in and would be completed soon, she said.

Repairs to Pathum Thani's Ban Phrao sluice gate were expected to be finished later yesterday, Yingluck said, asking residents to cooperate by not dismantling the floodwalls and assuring them the government would do its best to help flood victims.

She said rescue teams would evacuate affected people to shelters, while other teams had been set up to assist people in the shelters. The government was trying to drain floodwater out to sea and would rehabilitate flood-hit areas as soon as possible.

The government's Flood Relief Operations Command had received over Bt400 million in donations, which would be distributed to all flood victims, while foreign countries - such as China, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Israel, Denmark and the United States - had offered assistance, Yingluck said. The US offered to send 26 helicopters in one week to perform evacuations and transport heavy equipment, she said.

Urging the public to have confidence in the government's proposed systematic long-term solutions to flooding, she invited members of the public to join in tackling the problem and help the country overcome the difficulties together.

Yingluck will today preside over a ceremony to launch an effort to have boats on the Chao Phraya push water out to sea, while similar efforts would be launched simultaneously on the Tha Chin and Bang Pakong rivers.

Yingluck chaired a meeting with military and Interior Ministry officials to discuss search and rescue missions for stranded flood victims. She asked that Air Force helicopters be used to search for stranded victims, and that the Interior Ministry use household census data to identify which people were at shelters and which remained in flooded areas.

Yingluck also instructed provincial governors to educate residents about the installation of floodwalls in order to gain their cooperation.

At Don Mueang Airport, Yingluck presided over the launch of a 200-strong health volunteer caravan with relief bags and medical supplies to assist flood victims at shelters in Ayutthaya, Lop Buri, Sing Buri, Pathum Thani and Angthong. The volunteers would also visit people stranded in flooded homes, with green flags being placed at houses with patients in severe need.

And at Don Mueang Military Air Base, US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney late yesterday afternoon welcomed the delivery of 18,000 sandbags by a 10-strong team travelling on a C130 plane from a US base off Okinawa in Japan. The team will assess the flood situation in preparation for further assistance from the US.