Thousands flee Bangkok as flood water approaches
Thousands of Bangkok residents fled the Thai capital Thursday after an official warning to expect major floods. The city authorities have said they can no longer guarantee that any part of the city will be safe.
Rail and bus stations and airports were packed and long queues of cars packed the roads out of town.
Water entered the grounds of the Grand Palace after the Chao Phraya river overflowed at high tide but most of downtown Bangkok was still dry Thursday.
Many residents hunkered down in their homes, surrounded by sandbags or in some cases even hastily erected concrete block walls, after the government ordered a five-day holiday for 21 provinces, including Bangkok, from Thursday.
"It's a crisis, because if we try to resist this massive amount of floodwater, a force of nature, we won't win," said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. "But if we allow it to flow freely then people in many areas are prepared."
Beach resorts, like Hua Hin, Phuket and Pattaya, are “packed with Thais who have moved from Bangkok," said Tourism Authority of Thailand deputy chief Sansern Ngaorungsi.
Government offices, schools and some businesses were shut across Bangkok and supermarkets have been running low on essential items such as bottled water and eggs, sometimes rationing their sale.
The stock market and banks, however, were still open for business as normal.
Three months of flooding, caused by unusually heavy monsoon rains, has left more than 370 people dead and millions of homes and livelihoods damaged in other parts of the country.
Water arriving from the north – the equivalent to 480,000 Olympic swimming pools -
is expected to reach the capital at the same time as seasonal high tides this weekend, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.