Thai police protect flood barrier

THAILAND - Police are watching over an earthen embankment erected recently to protect Prachin Buri's economic zone from flooding.

The strict surveillance follows allegedly deliberate damage to the barrier by some residents from a nearby housing estate late on Sunday night in a bid to ensure that floodwaters would not head their way.

The housing estate sits on almost the opposite side of the Sarit Yuttasilp Rd in Prachin Buri's Muang district.

"We have received reports that villagers damaged the embankment with hoes and spades," Prachin Buri police chief Colonel Yingyos Intaburan said yesterday.

He said police were called to the spot to stop the villagers but initially they refused to listen.

Their housing estate accommodates about 1,650 families. They are unhappy with the Muang Prachin Buri Municipality's decision to build the embankment, believing the structure would divert floodwater to their homes.

While Muang Prachin Buri Municipality's zone was briefly flooded three times this year, the housing estate remained dry. However, its residents now suspect the newly erected embankment might change the situation.

Many parts of Prachin Buri are now deep under floodwater, spreading fear and concern.

People in Muang Prachin Buri want the embankment to stay. The municipality's deputy mayor Tossapon Pinijtanapark and Muang Prachin Buri district chief Somsak Itthivorakul rushed to talk to villagers from nearby housing estates.

"The villagers have agreed to stop damaging the embankment in exchange for the municipality's promise to not raise the level of the embankment, to not fix the damage that has already been done to the structure, and to help form sandbag walls around the housing estate," Yingyos said.

He said that after the agreement, police would still need to watch over the embankment out of concern that residents of the housing estate might change their minds.

"We have now conducted patrols along the embankment," he said.

In Prachin Buri's Prachantakham district, the floodwater level was more than two metres deep at the worst-hit spots.

In the province's Ban Sang district, flooding has already ravaged vast areas of farmland.

Chachoengsao Governor Anukul Tangkananukulchai said run-off water from Prachin Buri had caused flooding in his province.

"Now, we are trying to push the excess water out to sea as fast as possible," he said. Officials can now drain about 30 million cubic metres of water out of the province.

Assoc Prof Sucharit Koontakakulvong, who heads the Water Resources Engineering Department at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Engineering, said the flooding situation in the Eastern region indicated each area has varying sensitivities and their early-warning criteria needed to be different.

"For example, rainfall not exceeding 60 millimetres may be a sound criterion in a general farming area but not in community, economic and industrial zones," he pointed out.

The Eastern region includes Prachin Buri and Chachoengsao.