Thailand floods: Bangkok residents leave as river rises
Water levels in Bangkok's main river hit a new high as residents continued to leave the Thai capital ahead of possible flooding at the weekend.
Roads were jammed as residents used a five-day holiday to leave the city.
Flood waters are continuing to creep into northern districts of Bangkok but the centre remains mostly dry.
Officials have warned high tides due on Saturday, combined with the flow of run-off water from inundated central plains, could cause wider flooding.
Heavy monsoon rains have been causing flooding in Thailand since July. More than 370 people have been killed and swathes of the country affected.
Bangkok is now being hit by the flow of water south to the sea.
Authorities fear that the Chao Phraya river, which bisects Bangkok, could burst its banks when water levels rise because of unusually high seasonal tides over the weekend.
Early on Friday it hit a record high of 2.47 metres above sea level, according to the Bangkok Post. Water flooded streets around the Grand Palace - the former home of the Thai royal family - but later retreated.
"The Chao Phraya overflowed and flooded some areas along the river but it receded quite quickly," a spokesman for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said.
"The flooding is still serious in northern parts of Bangkok... and in three districts in the west," he added.
Seven districts in the north of Bangkok are flooded, with residents told they should evacuate.
The prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, said she was assessing a proposal to dig channels into some roads in eastern Bangkok to help water drain through to the sea.
On Thursday, bus stations and roads were packed as many thousands of city-dwellers headed for coastal southern and eastern resorts unaffected by the flooding.
The exodus continued on Friday, with television footage showing roads leading out of the city jammed with cars and trucks.
The government has declared a five-day holiday - Thursday until Monday - in Bangkok and 20 provinces hit by flooding to help residents tackle the situation.
The domestic airport at Don Muang closed, with the runway under water, but the main international airport - in another part of the capital - is operating as normal.
The floods have forced several industrial estates and factories to shut down, hitting the economy hard.
On Friday, the Bank of Thailand slashed its growth forecast for the current financial year to 2.6%, down from an initial projection of 4.1% growth.
Japan, meanwhile, has said that it will allow Thai employees of Japanese companies based in Thailand to work in Japan as a temporary measure.
Top government spokesman Osamu Fujimura said workers from about 30 companies would likely be allowed to stay for six months.
The move came in response to a request from big Japanese manufacturers hit by the floods looking to boost output by increasing operations in Japan.