* Receding waters in northe reduce flood risks in Bangkok
* High tides still pose risk to some areas
* Floods to push up global prices of rice, computer hard
* At least 377 killed since July; 2.2 million affected
By Jason Szep and Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat
BANGKOK, Oct 29 Receding floodwaters north of
Bangkok have reduced the threat to the Thai capital, the prime
minister said on Saturday, but a rise in coastal high tides in
the Gulf of Thailand will still test the city's flood defences.
"If things go on like this, we expect floodwater in Bangkok
to recede within the first week of November," Prime Minister
Yingluck Shinawatra said on national television.
Bangkok's main waterway, the Chao Phraya River, has swollen
close to its brink during unusually high tides, causing some
flooding in nearby areas. Buildings across Bangkok have been
sand-bagged for protection. Many residents have fled the city or
stocked up on water, food, life jackets and even boats.
Thailand's worst floods in half a century have killed 377
people since July, wiped out a quarter of the main rice crop in
the world's biggest exporter, forced up global prices of
computer hard drives and caused delays in global auto production
after destroying industrial estates.
Prices of eggs in Bangkok have quadrupled as jittery
residents stockpiled staples. Commerce Minister Kittiratt
Na-Ranonga assured flood victims they would have enough bottled
drinking water, dairy products, pork and chicken.
Cash was also in heavy demand. The Bank of Thailand has
repeated that there is enough money circulating to meet demand
for three months following a crush of withdrawals. Nearly 400
bank branches have closed across the country due to the floods.
The floods have submerged 4 million acres (1.6 million
hectares) of land, an area roughly the size of Kuwait or
Swaziland, turning entire cities into urban reservoirs.
Yingluck said the ebbing of floodwaters in northern
provinces, thanks to the draining of water into the Gulf of
Thailand through canals and pumps, had reduced the risk of large
volumes of run-off water bearing down on Bangkok. The city sits
only two metres (6 1/2 ft) above sea level.
"In this critical situation, there is some good news for us.
Our water-management plan went smoothly during previous days,"
The Chao Phraya is expected to rise to as much as 2.6 metres
(8.5 ft) above sea level on Saturday during high tides, the
government said this week when it declared a five-day holiday
from Thursday to allow people to leave.
Many foreign governments have warned their citizens against
non-essential travel to the city of 12 million people, one of
Asia's largest. City hotels have emptied and gone quiet. Many
locals have headed for the seaside town of Hua Hin and the
eastern resort city of Pattaya, where hotel rooms are scarce.
Bangkok's governor late on Friday ordered the evacuation of
a fourth district, Thawi Whatthana, in western Bangkok.
Evacuations have now taken place in four of Bangkok's 50
districts -- Don Muang, Bang Phlat, Sai Mai and Thawi Whatthana
-- all of which have suffered floods in recent days.
FLOOD WARNING IN WESTERN BANGKOK
Local authorities expect Thonburi, on the west bank of the
Chao Phraya, to be inundated within three days and Yingluck said
levels should remain high for days due to a lack of canals.
Seventeen roads across Bangkok already have been closed.
Japanese engineers have been flown in to advise on how to
protect Bangkok's main international airport, Suvarnabhumi, and
the city subway system. Authorities have built a 23.5 km (15
mile) dike around the airport and have reassured travellers it
would be safe.
Roads around the Grand Palace, a top tourist attraction,
were briefly flooded on Friday along with some streets in
densely populated Chinatown during high tide.
Bangkok, which accounts for 41 percent of Thailand's $319
billion economy, has been at risk from run-off water from the
north coinciding with the high tide on the Chao Phraya, already
at a record high level.
The economic toll continued to mount in Thailand, the
second-largest exporter of computer hard drives and Southeast
Asia's biggest auto production hub. Global prices for hard
drives, for instance, are rising due to a flood-related shortage
of major component used in personal computers.
Drive manufacturers have raised prices by 20 to 40 percent
and in turn raised prices by a similar amount after water poured
into factories this month, said Chuck Kostalnick, Senior Vice
President of international electronics distributor Avnet Inc.
"The word we're getting is that prices are going to continue
to go up," he told Reuters. "This isn't going to be a one-time