Thai PM pledges flood relief as fight for Bangkok goes on
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pledged more than $4 billion on Wednesday to help Thailand recover from the worst floods in half a century, as workers slowed the flow of water threatening the commercial heart of the capital, Bangkok.
Evacuation orders have spread to a third of Bangkok's districts, mostly in the north of the densely populated city of 12 million people, since late October, as floodwater strewn with trash slowly seeps in from northern and northeastern provinces.
Yingluck, a political novice elected this year, said about 120 billion baht($3.9 billion) had been set aside for a flood recovery effort, a figure that rises to 130 billion baht ($4.2 billion) when local government funds are added.
On the streets of Bangkok, few see an end to the slow-moving disaster that began after tropical storm Nock-ten battered Southeast Asia in late July. Since then, at least 529 people have been killed, many electrocuted or drowned, in floods that have affected 63 of Thailand's 77 provinces.
Some hard-hit regions have started to recover since the end of the August-to-October monsoon season, with only 24 provinces now classified as flooded. But for low-lying Bangkok, the disaster is far from over, as the authorities struggle to keep inner-city neighborhoods and business districts dry.
"I'm concerned about more water reaching Bangkok and I just want to know when it will recede. It's rising and it should recede but when will that be?" said Bangkok resident, Nee Jiranantawat, 53.
Others said they feared they may run low on food and other supplies, especially in homes flooded in waist-high water.
Nikom Teo-au, a 56-year-old garage owner, said he was facing difficulty delivering food to his family at his home on a street under up to 1.5 meters (4.9 ft) of water in Bangkok's Din Daeng neighborhood, just 7 km (4.3 miles) from the main Silom business district where buildings are ringed with sand bags.
Yingluck, a 46-year-old former businesswoman and sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said the money would ease the suffering of victims and repair damaged infrastructure.
Photo shows Army soldiers directing traffic at a flooded bus stop near Bangkok's Chatuchak market November 7, 2011.
Credit: REUTERS/Adrees Latif