Flood Waters Threaten Bangkok Deluge

Flood surge towards Bangkok coincides with high tide.

BANGKOK, Thailand Oct. 14, 2001— -- The rain is coming down hard in Bangkok today and there is more in forecast at a time when rain is the last thing the city needs.

The city of 9 million people is working around the clock to save the city from floodwaters that have already submerged more than half of the country and killed nearly 300 people.

Historic temples are below water, major car factories have shut down, and even elephants are left stranded.

A crucial period is the next 48 hours as flood waters cascade south from the northern part of the country towards the low lying city of Bangkok at the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand at the same time that high tide is expected.

The government said much of Bangkok lies behind a sturdy system of flood walls, dams and dikes that have been reinforced recently.

"I insist that the floods will only affect outer Bangkok and will not be widespread in other areas," Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said today while touring the city's defenses.

Others are not so sure. Along the outer banks of the city volunteers race to build floodwalls. In one villagers where people have been sandbagging for the last two weeks, they are running out of sand.

As volunteers stacked sandbags to bolster a dam just north of Bangkok today, one volunteer said, "If we cannot protect this dam, all the water will go through Bangkok… and… I don't know what's going to happen after that."

The water has already spilled over into homes along the Chao Phraya River which undulates through the center of the city and most of the buildings along the river's edge are under water. The government has lined up pumps all along the river, but it's a futile effort in some areas.

Suthipong Sontidech's home is along the Chao Phraya and he has sandbags around his house and a large pump running 24 hours a day. Nevertheless, water is seeping through his concrete floor. He says his family took the day off work today to save their family heirlooms before the first floor is flooded.

Suthipong says that he hasn't seen anything like this in the 35 years he's lived along the river.

And efforts to divert the water from Bangkok has sent the water spilling into other villages, prompting angry residents to take apart floodwalls meant to protect the city as their expense.