Asia-Pacific

Thai PM reassures as Bangkok braces for floods

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Media captionRachel Harvey says a village just north of Bangkok is waist-deep in water

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has sought to reassure Bangkok residents, as efforts continue to protect the city from the country's worst floods in decades.

Ms Yingluck said flood walls would protect the city centre and it should be considered safe.

Her comments came after an evacuation warning for some suburbs issued by a minister sparked panic.

The flooding, which began in late July, has affected huge swathes of Thailand.

Northern and central provinces bore the brunt of the flooding initially but the run-off is now swelling waterways that flow south into Bangkok.

Authorities there have warned that the arrival of the run-off water, plus high tides and bad weather at the weekend, could flood parts of the city.

'Dangerous time'

Flooding has already inundated parts of Pathum Thani, a town directly north of Bangkok.

Central Bangkok is protected by flood walls and in recent days, teams of troops and volunteers have been racing to fill sandbags to fortify existing dykes.

"Bangkok may face some problems in areas that are on the outer sides of the irrigation dykes but water levels will not be too high. But inner Bangkok has extremely high defences," Ms Yingluck said.

"In conclusion, Bangkok should still be considered safe," she said.

Late on Thursday, Science Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi said that northern suburbs were at risk of flooding because a floodgate had burst, causing some residents to leave.

But the government later issued a call for calm, saying the breach would not affect Bangkok.

"During 15 to 18 October, it may be a dangerous time because water from the north will be coming in... But I confirm it has not reached a crisis stage as of this moment," said Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra.

Officials in charge of managing the floods say they plan to divert the water through canals to the east and west of Bangkok and then on to the sea.

The main canals are being dredged to help water flow out to sea. Troops are also digging out other canals to improve water flow, a government spokesman said.

Image caption Large parts of the World Heritage city of Ayutthaya are under water

Sandbags have been distributed to residents in villages within the drainage area, the Bangkok Post newspaper reported.

The flooding has been gathering pace for weeks. More than 280 people have been killed and Thailand's economy has been hit hard because factories are under water.

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

Neighbouring Cambodia has also been hit hard by floods, which have been triggered by heavy monsoon rains. Almost 250 people have been killed since the flooding began, with 17 out of 23 provinces affected.

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