Thai flooding: Bangkok 'should escape worst of floods'

Aerial photo of flooded ancient capital city of Ayutthaya, north of Bangkok, on 16 October 2011 Although Bangkok's plight may ease, many areas - including the ancient capital city of Ayutthaya here - are suffering

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Thailand's government has expressed confidence that the capital Bangkok will escape the worst of the country's current flooding.

Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut said there were "good signs" that water levels on the city's key Chao Phraya river would rise no higher.

Volunteers have spent days filling sandbags and draining canals to try to protect homes and businesses.

Huge swathes of the country have been devastated by months of monsoon rains.

Entire villages have been submerged and more than 280 people have been killed since the flooding began in late July.

North and central provinces have borne the brunt of the floods.

Boat propellers

"A large amount of water from the north flowed past Bangkok to the Gulf of Thailand yesterday," Mr Theera said on Sunday.

Water levels would be "stable" from now on, he said, easing fears that Bangkok was at risk from a combination of run-off water from the flood-hit north as well as high tides and bad weather.

Flooding in Bangkok, 16 Oct Some low-lying areas of Bangkok have not escaped

Mr Theera stopped short of saying Bangkok was over the worst, although Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Sunday: "I believe Bangkok will be safe."

Business in Bangkok appeared to carry on mostly as normal on Sunday, with the city's main Suvarnabhumi airport operating as usual.

However, sandbags have been piled up around the city, and many residents have stocked up on emergency supplies.

The Bangkok authorities have taken no chances in recent days, draining and dredging canals to help water flow out to sea.

They even lined up 1,000 boats with their engines running on the Chao Phraya, Bang Pa Kong and Tha Chin rivers on Sunday to keep the water flowing.

Ms Yingluck, who was on the banks of the Chao Phraya north of Bangkok, said that even though the boats' propellers moved only a small amount of water it was still "worthwhile and efficient", AFP news agency reports.

The focus is now shifting to a large industrial estate, Navanakorn, north of Bangkok, which is home to dozens of factories and businesses - much of which make electronic components and car parts.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey, at the scene, says the government has pledged to do all it can to protect the industrial estate from being engulfed by flood water. A small army of volunteers is helping to fill sandbags, which are then being taken by truck to shore up the barricades, she says.

Thailand's economy has been disrupted by the weeks of flooding, with many factories - including Japanese carmakers Toyota and Honda - forced to suspend production because of damage to facilities or disruption to local supply chains.

The city of Ayutthaya, a World Heritage site which is home to temples and monuments, has been badly affected.

Neighbouring Cambodia has also been hit hard, with the loss of almost 250 people and 17 out of 23 provinces affected.

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