Girl, 10, swept away in Thailand floods

THAILAND - A 10-year-old girl was washed away and feared dead yesterday as the eastern province of Prachin Buri battled its worst flooding in 26 years.

"Big waves were generated by three military vehicles that came to the area to help flood victims," a witness said.

Locals said Sasikarn Wongprai and her girlfriend were playing in 30-centimetre water in front of her home in Sri Maha Pho district when big waves swept both girls into a nearby field covered by four metres of water.

Bystanders rushed to help them but could only find and rescue Sasikarn's friend. Sasikarn did not go to school because it was closed due to the raging currents.

Four districts including Sri Maha Pho have been declared flood-disaster zones. Heavy downpours continued to pelt Sri Maha Pho and Kabin Buri districts.

Deputy PM Plodprasop Suraswadi, who chairs the Water and Flood Management Commission, said he had ordered officials not to release any water from Khun Dan Prakan Chon Dam in Nakhon Nayok into Prachin Buri for at least two days.

This dam, which can hold 280 million cubic metres of water, was saving Prachin Buri from worse flooding, he said.

But there has been growing opposition for a dam proposed in Mae Wong, with a big protest held against it in Bangkok on Sunday.

Plodprasop threatened to reveal a letter showing that Pramote Maiklad, now opposed to the Mae Wong project, used to support it when he was head of the Irrigation Department.

The dam is part of a Bt350-billion (S$14 billion) flood management scheme proposed by the government aimed at overhauling the country's water-management system in the wake of the great flood of 2011, which took hundreds of lives and caused massive economic damage.

During the crisis two years ago, seven industrial estates were submerged.

But Plodprasop insists that the water mass now is much less than in 2011. "Two years ago, we had to handle 25-30 billion cubic metres of water. This year, it's less than 15," he said.

Premier Yingluck Shinawatra admitted that she was worried about the flood threat to Saha Rattana Nakorn Industrial Estate in Ayutthaya, which was one of the seven badly flooded in 2011.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has warned more than 20 communities in the capital along stretches of the Chao Phraya, without floodwalls, to brace for possible overflow. The river has risen ominously lately.

"We have advised residents of these communities to move their belongings to higher ground," said Sanya Chenimit, deputy city clerk.

With some sections of flood barriers starting to leak, officials are building temporary floodwalls with sandbags where necessary.