Bangkok flood barriers hold back massive surge
Bangkok residents are breathing a little sigh of relief as flood barriers held their ground Saturday in what experts had predicted would be the worst flood surge, but they are not out of the safety zone yet.
More high tides are expected over the weekend in the inundated Thai capital.
"There is very little wriggle room left between the tops of all the flood defences and where the water levels are," Canadian journalist Michael McAuliffe told CBC News on Saturday morning.
"We did see some small breaches in the flood barriers along the western and eastern sides of the city, but they seem to be quite small and they patched them up pretty quickly."
However, one more high tide is predicted for Saturday night and two more are expected on Sunday.
Thai authorities have asked U.S. military helicopters to survey flooding, according to BBC News.
Two Seahawk helicopters aboard the USS Mustin warship would conduct "aerial reconnaissance," the Pentagon said Saturday. The warship is docked at the port of Laem Chabang, just south of of the capital.
Meanwhile, thousands of Bangkok residents took advantage of a special five-day holiday to leave the city ahead of the weekend.
Seven of Bangkok's 50 districts — all in the northern outskirts — are heavily flooded, and residents have fled aboard bamboo rafts and army trucks and by wading in waist-deep water. Another eight districts have seen less serious flooding.
Fresh flooding was reported Friday in the city's southeast when a canal overflowed in a neighbourhood on the outer parts of Sukhumvit Road. City official Adisak Kanttee said the city’s concrete barriers were "efficiently protecting Bankgok from deluge."
Most of Bangkok, however, has remained dry and most of its more than nine million residents were staying put to protect their homes. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said floodwaters are starting to recede and mentioned in her weekly radio address that her government was trying to speed up that drainage rate in the greater Bangkok area.
"We have good news that the situation in the central region has improved as runoff water gradually decreased," she said.
The floods have drenched a third of the country's provinces, killed close to 400 people and displaced more than 110,000 others. The water has crept from the central plains south toward the Gulf of Thailand with Bangkok right in the middle of the water’s way.
Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs is advising against "non-essential travel to Bangkok and flood-affected areas." The advisory doesn't extend to Suvarnabhumi International Airport, a busy international travel hub that is still operating.
With files from The Associated Press