* Two more industrial estates could be inundated, army says
* Defence walls raised, water levels creep higher
* Yingluck says crisis no time for political point-scoring
* Computer parts, car, rice, electronics sectors hit
By Ploy Ten Kate
BANGKOK, Oct 22 Thailand's government scrambled
to protect the capital on Saturday and defend two industrial
zones from flooding as water levels crept higher and hundreds of
riverside residents prepared to leave their homes.
The diversion of floodwater that reached levels as high as
three metres on Bangkok's fringe provinces appeared to be
working for now, although some spilled into northern districts,
forcing hundreds into evacuation centres.
Thailand's worst flooding in half a century has affected a
third of the country and has threatened Bangkok for several
days. Some 356 people have been killed and 113,000 have been
forced to live in makeshift shelters.
The military said it may not be able to protect the Lat
Krabang and Bangchan industrial estates to the north and east of
Bangkok, risking more disruption to supply chains and cuts in
production for foreign firms operating in the country.
The government has been criticised for its management of the
crisis. On Friday Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra invoked a
special law granting her full power and jurisdiction over the
metropolitan authorities and the military to prevent further
conflicts in handling the floods.
"All agencies have to be united where tackling the runoff is
concerned, because successfully diverting the water to drain
into the sea via east Bangkok would hinge on all relevant
agencies moving in a concerted effort," she said in a televised
Twenty-eight of Thailand's 77 provinces and 2.46 million
people are affected, with water covering an area 16 times the
size of Hong Kong.
The floods have devastated industrialised areas north of
Bangkok, inflicting damage estimated at around $3.3 billion and
putting more than 650,000 of Thais temporarily out of work.
Myanmar has suffered at least 100 deaths and Cambodia 247 as
a result of severe flooding.
Thailand's central bank said 2011 growth might be about 3
percent rather than the 4.1 percent it had previously forecast.
The finance minister said growth in Southeast Asia's
second-biggest economy might be barely 2 percent this year.
Residents moved valuables to higher ground, tens of
thousands of cars were left at parking lots at airports,
shopping malls and concert venues, while some vehicles were
moved to bridges and flyovers or parked on elevated tollways.
Stores ran out of bottled water and instant noodles. People
were seen buying sacks of ice to melt into drinking water.
An airport in northern Don Muang area was transformed into
an evacuation centre, with 3,000 people sleeping in departure
lounges or tents pitched in the arrivals hall.
INDUSTRIAL ZONE IN DANGER
Scattered rain was expected on Sunday and Monday, according
to the Meteorological Department.
Bangkok has so far escaped the full force of the flooding,
with fringe provinces of Ayutthaya, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi
among the worst hit and seven industrial estates closed.
In the northern district of Lak Si, residents pushed stalled
cars or waded through waist-high water after it spilled over the
Prapa canal. Some 1,200 people with homes along river banks in
central Bangkok were advised to leave.
Air force helicopters transferred patients from Bangkok
hospitals seen as potential danger spots while troops battled to
protect Lat Krabang and Bangchan industrial zones.
"We won't leave the job but we can't guarantee you 100
percent that they won't flood," army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha
told reporters, adding that he ordered troops to reinforce
floodwalls and raise their height.
Lat Krabang is home to 254 factories and Bangchan has 90
facilities. Both are responsible for autos, transport, food and
beverage and electrical appliances industries.
Forty-nine factories at Lat Krabang are Japanese, including
Honda . It also houses plants operated by Isuzu Motors
and Unilever .
The potential economic damage from serious flooding in the
city of at least 12 million people is huge, with Bangkok
accounting for 41 percent of gross domestic product.
Japanese car makers have suffered badly, with output cut by
about 6,000 units a day, while tech giants like Intel ,
Apple and Dell could be affected as a result
of a fall in Thai production of hard drives.
Traders also estimate about 2 million tonnes of milled rice
may have been ruined in Thailand, the world's top rice exporter.