Three months of heavy monsoon rains that have killed more than 300 people and affected millions of Thais forced the Thai government on Friday to open floodgates around Bangkok to let water flow through the city’s extensive system of waterways and pumps.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra advised residents to move to higher floors of residences and higher ground as a precaution amid the lack of assurance that Bangkok would be saved from rising floodwaters overwhelming sandbag walls located in the city’s outskirts.
The move to open the city’s floodgates is expected to ease pressure on the city’s northern flood barriers, yet increases the threat of flooding in Bangkok – a city of 12m – which to date has escaped major flooding. The move comes only days after some officials said that the worst of the flooding had passed.
City residents are reportedly becoming frustrated with conflicting messages from local officials. Residents of the city were seen parking their cars on higher ground and supermarkets were running out of bottled water and other supplies as residents stocked up on supplies.
The alert to move to higher areas is in effect for the north and eastern parts of the city, some of which are already experiencing some flooding.
The Thai government is facing criticism over its slow response to the floods and its conflicting messages as it manages the situation. The opposition has called on the government to call a state of emergency to make it easier to control people. Thousands of soldiers and police have been mobilized to maintain order and sandbag flood barriers.