Evacuees rest in their tents at Bangkok's Don Mueang airport which doubles up as an evacuation centre. The airport shut down on Tuesday as flood waters advanced into the Thai capital, forcing authorities in 'crisis mode' to declare a five-day public holiday in preparation for the deluge. -- PHOTO: AFP
BANGKOK (AFP) - Bangkok's Don Mueang airport shut down on Tuesday as flood waters advanced into the Thai capital, forcing authorities in 'crisis mode' to declare a five-day public holiday in preparation for the deluge.
The cabinet ordered an Oct 27-31 holiday for Bangkok and 20 other provinces affected by the kingdom's worst flooding in decades, amid warnings a high tide would surge up the capital's main river and escalate the disaster.
'The government has switched to a crisis mode as a massive run-off will arrive in the capital on Oct 26, coinciding with a high tide on Oct 28,' the Flood Relief Operations Centre (FROC) said in a statement.
Ministers made the decision at a meeting in Don Mueang airport in the city's north, which handles domestic flights and has also been doubling as an evacuee shelter and a headquarters for the flood relief operation.
But as the waters that have already flooded several northern and eastern districts of Bangkok closed in, both airlines operating there, Nok Air and Orient Thai, said they were suspending all flights.
'Because a lot of water is creeping into the northern premises of the airport, it could cause planes to slide on the runways,' Airports of Thailand said, adding that Don Mueang's two runways would be closed until Nov 1.
About 100 domestic flights normally operate from the airport each day.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is facing her first major crisis since coming to power in August, said before the cabinet meeting that the evacuees sheltering there would also have to relocate.
The public holidays are designed to allow Bangkok's 12 million residents to brace for the floods now creeping towards the city centre after swamping other parts of the nation, killing some 360 people and damaging millions of homes.
'The public and private sectors have been urged to allow their flood-hit staff some time off, so that they would have a chance to look after their property and protect their homes,' said the FROC statement.
Schools and government offices will be closed, while the central bank said it was still considering whether to shut down financial markets during the newly-declared public holidays.
Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra made a televised address Tuesday warning residents along the Chao Phraya river in the capital to be on 'full alert' after the waterway reached record highs of of 2.3m on Monday.
'If the situation continues in these circumstances, the water level this weekend will hit 2.6m, while our average flood embankment is 2.5m high,' he said.
In the city centre, residents were lining up to buy bottled water directly from trucks resupplying shops, after days of panic-buying emptied supermarket shelves.
Information about the floods has often been inconsistent, with politically inexperienced Yingluck apparently at odds with Bangkok's local administration, run by a rival party, and rumours of tensions with the army.
A defence official in Washington said the United States (US) navy had withdrawn several ships, including aircraft carriers, sent to help with relief efforts in Thailand after receiving 'mixed' messages from the Bangkok government.
'There were two channels (in the Thai government),' the defence official told AFP. 'One was saying 'Yes' and one was saying 'No.'' But Thailand's defence minister, General Yutthasak Sasiprapa, indicated that authorities felt they were able to handle the situation themselves.
'We have not denied their assistance, but we have our own aircraft so we would rather use ours,' he told reporters, adding however that he was unclear over the details of the US offer and needed to check with the air force chief.
A spokesman from the US embassy in Bangkok said one ship from the US group had docked in Thailand on Oct 20 and its helicopters had since been on missions coordinated with the Thai army and other US agencies.
PM Lee offers condolences and assistance to Turkey
Published on Oct 25, 2011
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has sent his condolences to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following the earthquake in Van Province on Sunday. -- ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
NEWS FLASH - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has sent his condolences to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following the earthquake in Van Province on Sunday.
In the letter, he said he was 'deeply saddened to learn about the loss of lives and destruction caused by the earthquake in Van Province... On behalf of the Government of Singapore and all Singaporeans, I would like to convey my deepest condolences to you and the people of Van Province, especially those who have lost their loved ones'.
He added that Singapore is prepared to offer assistance if required.
The earthquake of 7.2 magnitude has, to date, killed 264 people and injured more than 1,000 in eastern Turkey.
Weeds, lack of pumps hinder flow from Bangkok
Published on Oct 25, 2011
(The NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A shortage of pumps and canals clogged by vegetation and other obstacles is hampering the last-ditch effort to expel flood water from Bangkok into the sea.
'Some waterways have too many water hyacinths. There are also bottlenecks north of Hok Wa Lang Canal that need to be removed to allow the water to flow faster,' Uthen Chartpinyo, committee head of the Flood Relief Operation Centre's (FROC) in charge of draining flood water into the sea, said on Monday.
His survey of canals in Bangkok and downstream provinces had found problems that needed to be addressed immediately.
To speed up the current from Pathum Thani's Canal 13 to Hok Wa Lang Canal at the border with Bangkok and finally to the Gulf of Thailand, pumps have to be borrowed from Suvarnabhumi Airport, he said.
Leaks at the junction of Lat Krabang and Saen Saeb canals need to be patched to prevent the inundation of surrounding areas.
The South Rangsit gate has to be opened wide to allow more water from Rangsit Canal 13 to enter Bangkok's canals.
The department's local office had been previously instructed, to open the sluice gate partway, and not to its full height of 3.5m, to avoid swamping Bangkok's Lat Krabang district.
'I ordered the Royal Irrigation Department officials to open the watergate at this point to its full height. If there is flooding in Lat Krabang, I will take responsibility. This point is the shortest route to propel water into the ocean,' Mr Uthen said.
Chainarin Panpinyaporn, chief of the department's Office 11, who is in charge of the South Rangsit gate, said the discharge of water in areas east of the capital remained slow because of 'difficult terrain' - such as obstructions narrowing the canals - as well as the lack of cooperation from local residents who are afraid of flooding.
Associate Professor Seri Suparathit, director of Rangsit University's Centre on Climate Change and Disaster, said people in the path of the drainage operation in Bangkok would have to learn to live with flood water for at least a month.
Eastern districts such as Min Buri and Lat Krabang would be under 80cm of water, while some northern and eastern parts would be hit within five to 10 days, depending on their location, he said.
Asia pays watery price for overdevelopment
Published on Oct 25, 2011
BANGKOK (AP) - As millions of urbanites living a modern lifestyle fear that torrents of flood water will rage through Thailand's capital, some in enclaves of a bygone era watch the rising waters with hardly a worry - they live in old-fashioned houses perched on stilts with boats rather than cars parked outside.
'No problem for them. They'll be safe,' says boatman Thongrat Sasai, plying his craft along some of the remaining canals that once crisscrossed Bangkok, earning it a 'Venice of the East' moniker.
Like most of monsoon-swept Asia, the city and its environs have experienced periodic floods since it was founded more than two centuries ago. But recent decades have witnessed dramatic changes - from intense urbanisation to rising waters blamed on climate change - that are turning once burdensome but bearable events into national crises.
'In a sense, traditional society had an easier coexistence with water and flooding,' says Aslam Perawaiz, an expert at the Bangkok-based Asian Disaster Preparedness Center. 'Now, with such rapid development there's a much bigger problem.' Across Asia, areas of high population density are also those most prone to flooding and other water-related disasters, according to an Associated Press analysis of recent United Nations maps. When overlaid, the maps show such convergence in a wide arc from Pakistan and India, across South-east Asia, to China, the Philippines and Indonesia.
This isn't mere bad luck. Historically, agrarian societies settled in the continent's great river basins, including the Ganges in India, the Mekong in South-east Asia and the Chao Phraya in Bangkok. The gift of the rivers was fertile land, but it came at the price of almost annual flooding during the monsoon rains.
By providing sufficient food for growing populations, these rice bowls in turn spurred the rise of some of Asia's largest cities from Bangkok to Kolkata, India. The concentration of national resources and wealth means even smaller disasters can have a big impact.
Severe flooding this year has killed more than 1,000 people across Asia this year, and economic losses are running in the tens of billions of dollars.
Thailand, suffering its worst flooding in 50 years, offers a prime example of the perils of centralisation and man's fractured bonds to the natural environment. Flood water has spilled into outlying parts of Bangkok, and the government is scrambling to try to prevent the inundation of the city center.
The basin of the Chao Phraya, the River of Kings and its headwaters in the north, is home to 40 per cent of the country's 66 million people. Bangkok is Thailand's industrial, financial, transportation and cultural heart, contributing more than 65 per cent of its gross domestic product.
Growth, outward and upward, has been stunning. Bangkok's greater metropolitan area now covers more than 7,700 sq km and continues to gnaw away at a surrounding countryside that once acted as a natural drain for water from northern mountain watersheds - themselves shedding more water because of widespread deforestation.
Highways, suburban malls and industrial parks, many now swamped and sustaining crippling losses, create dangerous build-ups of water or divert it into populated areas rather than along traditional paths toward the Gulf of Thailand.
In Bangkok itself, streets where today's middle-aged residents used to play with water buffaloes as children are studded with towering, cheek-by-jowl condominiums and office blocks. The ratios of green space to population and area are among the lowest of any major city in the world.
To this add extreme and erratic weather, said to be triggered by climate change, which has increasingly buffeted Asian countries with storms, typhoons and floods. These include ones such as Thailand with a historically mild tropical climate.
Further, the legal and illegal pumping of underground water faster than it can be replaced has compressed water-storing aquifers, causing Bangkok to sink between two to five centimetres each year. Scientists say the rise of waters in the nearby gulf as a result of global warming could combine with the sinking land to put Bangkok under water much of the time by mid-century.
Similar subsidence and sea-water encroachment is occurring in Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City and Manila, where a typhoon last month triggered the worst flooding in the Philippine capital for decades.
Bangkok, some experts half-jokingly say, may well return to what it was in the 19th century: a water world where almost all its 400,000 inhabitants lived on raft-houses or homes on stilts. 'The highways of Bangkok are not streets or roads, but the river and the canals,' wrote British envoy Sir John Browning in 1855.
A century later, on advice of international development agencies, Bangkok began to fill in most of its canals - excellent conduits of flood waters - to build more roads and combat malaria.
Sumet Jumsai, a prominent architect and scholar, says that Bangkok's early development 'evolved with nature and not against it.' But, he adds, by the early 1980s the city had become 'an alien organism unrelated to its background and surroundings, a great concrete pad on partially filled land that... must succumb to the flood every year.' Dikes and drainage pipes have been built, but nature appears to be keeping several steps ahead of manmade defences.
'Of course this year the flood is maybe too great to stop, but all in all it was better in the old days,' says Fairest Klatlek, sitting atop a poorly erected concrete flood wall through which water rushed into the first floor of her home. She and her electrician husband, like most of their neighbours, had built a ground-hugging, modern house along the Bangkok Noi canal.
Mr Sumet is designing modern, functional buildings, including a university campus, built on stilt columns and proposes a revival of floating houses, promenades and markets.
'The underlying philosophy is the return to living with nature like in Bangkok of yesteryear,' he says.
But Mr Aslam, the disaster expert, says, 'I don't think we can go back to living in harmony with nature as in the past. What is now necessary is huge investments and long-term planning by governments to mitigate such flooding.'
Flood waters enter Thai capital's 2nd airport
Published on Oct 25, 2011
An evacuee rests at his tent at Don Muang airport. Flood waters in Thailand breached barriers defending Bangkok's second airport on Tuesday and have begun seeping into the compound, forcing at least one airline based there to suspend flights for a week, officials said. -- ST PHOTO: NIRMAL GHOSH
BANGKOK (AP) - Flood waters in Thailand breached barriers defending Bangkok's second airport on Tuesday and have begun seeping into the compound, forcing at least one airline based there to suspend flights for a week, officials said.
It was not immediately clear how much water had entered Don Muang airport, which is primarily used for domestic flights. An airport official confirmed water had crept inside, but said runways were unaffected and flights were still operating normally.
Budget airline Nok Air suspended operations at Don Muang until Nov 1 'because water has entered the north side of the airport already,' the company's CEO Patee Sarasin told The Associated Press.
Mr Patee said all airborne planes will be diverted to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, the country's main international gateway. He said refunds would be given as needed.
Thailand's government says the death toll from catastrophic flooding nationwide has risen to 366 since they began in late July.
The Flood Relief Operations Centre, which is based at Don Muang airport, said water levels in provinces north of Bangkok are stable or subsiding, but the massive runoff is still bearing down on the city as it flows south toward the Gulf of Thailand.
Authorities have declared seven of the capital's 50 districts at risk and those zones, located in the north and north-west, are experiencing minor flooding. But most of Bangkok is dry.
Late Monday, Governor Suhumbhand Paribatra warned residents in the north-western Bang Phlat district to move their belongings to higher ground after water from the Chao Phraya River crept in through a subway construction site.
Thailand declares holidays to cope with flood crisis
Published on Oct 25, 2011
Thailand on Tuesday declared a three-day holiday in Bangkok and other flood-affected areas as high tides are forecast to flow up the city's main river and worsen floods creeping into the city. -- PHOTO: AP
BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand on Tuesday declared a three-day holiday in Bangkok and other flood-affected areas as high tides are forecast to flow up the city's main river and worsen floods creeping into the city.
Schools, businesses and government offices will shut on Thursday and Friday, and the following Monday, creating a five-day break in the capital and 20 other provinces.
'The cabinet today approved the declaration of October 27 through to 31 as holidays,' Pracha Promnog, head of the Flood Relief Operations Centre (Froc), said after ministers met to discuss the escalating crisis in Bangkok.
The central bank said it was still being decided whether to shut down financial markets as well. The announcement came after Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra made a televised address warning residents along the Chao Phraya river to be on 'full alert' after it reached record highs of of 2.30m on Monday.
'If the situation continues in these circumstances, the water level this weekend will hit 2.60m, while our average flood embankment is 2.50m high,' he said.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's cabinet met north of the city centre at Don Mueang airport, which is doubling up as a shelter and a headquarters for the relief operation, but is already surrounded by water-logged roads.
'We are concerned about evacuees because there is a problem with travelling here,' Ms Yingluck said ahead of the meeting.
'We will move them to safe areas,' she said, but added that for now Froc's operations would remain at the airport.
The flood waters are creeping further into the city of 12 million people after three months of heavy rains that have plagued other parts of the country, killing more than 360 people and damaging millions of homes and livelihoods.
Thailand says death toll from catastrophic flooding rises to 366
Published on Oct 25, 2011
BANGKOK (AP) - Thailand's government says the death toll from catastrophic flooding nationwide has risen to 366.
The Flood Relief Operations Center says water levels in provinces north of Bangkok are stable or subsiding, but the massive runoff is still bearing down on the city as it flows south toward the Gulf of Thailand.
Authorities have declared seven of the capital's 50 districts, located in the north and north-west, at risk and those zones are experiencing minor flooding. But most of Bangkok is normal and both airports are functioning.
Late Monday, Governor Suhumbhand Paribatra warned residents in the north-western Bang Phlat district to move their belongings to higher ground after water in the Chao Phraya river crept in through a subway construction site.
Japan to support companies hit by Thailand floods
Published on Oct 25, 2011
TOKYO (AFP) - Japan on Tuesday announced provisions to help its companies hit by Thailand's worst flooding in decades, as supply disruptions force firms to shutter plants and production is hit at home.
As concerns rise about the impact of Thailand's flooding on Japan's recovery from the March earthquake - already complicated by a soaring yen and a slowing global economy - Tokyo unveiled a loan programme to aid flood-hit firms.
The trade and industry ministry said on Tuesday it will expand loan guarantees and trade insurance programmes to help Japanese firms deal with the impact of production problems caused by the disasters that have left hundreds dead and dealt a heavy blow to Thailand's economy.
It will also provide guarantees to yen-denominated loans issued by the Thai government. The Bank of Japan (BoJ) also said on Tuesday it will collaborate with the Bank of Thailand in providing emergency liquidity to companies affected by the floods.
'One aim of this measure is to facilitate the funding of financial institutions operating in Thailand including Japanese banks, which provide financial services to firms, including Japanese firms operating in the flood-affected areas of Thailand,' the BoJ said in a statement.
It added that details would be made public 'in due course'.
Supply disruptions have forced Japan's biggest companies including Sony and automaker Toyota to temporarily shut plants in Thailand.
On Tuesday Toyota said the impact was also being felt at home as it was forced to reduce domestic production by about 10 per cent due to a lack of supplies.
Toyota has stopped overtime work at all of its factories in Japan at least for five days through Friday, which will cut its domestic output by about 6,000 units, or 1,200 per day, spokeswoman Shiori Hashimoto said in Tokyo.
Honda Motor also said it suspended production of motorcycles in Bangkok's Ladkrabang area from Tuesday through to at least Saturday.
'The factory producing motorcycles remains intact from the flood, but parts supplies have been disrupted,' said Honda spokesman Tomoko Takemori.
'The plant in Ayutthaya has been submerged, and we don't know when it can resume operations,' she said.
'Masses of water' still to come to Bangkok: Official
Published on Oct 25, 2011
Bangkok faces the threat of deluge from two huge masses of water north-east of the city over coming days, a senior Royal Irrigation Department official warned on Monday. -- PHOTO: AFP
(THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - While the flood situation in Bangkok remained relatively stable over the weekend, the capital faces the threat of deluge from two huge masses of water north-east of the city over coming days, a senior Royal Irrigation Department official warned on Monday.
'The first mass of water has left Rangsit canal brimming, and spilling over the parallel Rangsit-Nakhon Nayok road (running in an east-west direction) north of Bangkok, which doubles as a flood barrier,' said the official, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the news.
The second mass of water, now trapped further north beyond the Klong Luang road in Pathum Thani (which also runs east-west), was also building, and would soon cross the road to add to the first, he explained.
'When these two lots (of water) combine, in the next few days, they will amass and break through barriers along Rangsit-Nakhon Nayok road and head to further inundate Lak Luk Ka district in Pathum Thani, then Don Muang in northern Bangkok,' he said.
'The first lot is already inundating areas near Klong 1, 2 and 3 on the Phaholyothin Road side, but the Klong Luang road cannot hold the second lot for much longer.'
Flooding in these areas near Klong 1, 2 and 3 cannot be drained westward through Phra-in Racha water-gate, as the doors would only be damaged by strong currents and huge influx.
The spill-over from the first lot of water was also moving east and swamping a motorway section linking Bangkok and the East, the official said.
People living in flooded areas could expect to be underwater for another month, as water further north coming toward Bangkok was equivalent to the capacity of Bhumibol Dam, at around 12 billion cubic metres, Rangsit University flood and water management expert Dr Seri Supharathit said.
Bangkok residents are advised to stockpile tapwater, as the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority governor Charoen Phassara on Monday described the tapwater situation 'as worse than expected'.
Meanwhile, Bangkok officials were preparing to prevent possible flooding at three key areas - royal palaces, Don Mueang Airport and industrial estates in Lat Krabang and Bang Chan, the Bangkok governor said on Monday.
Mr Sukhumbhand Paribatra told reporters he had instructed city officials to take special care of palaces at risk of flooding due to their proximity to six city districts expected to be flooded when runoff from the north reaches the capital. These are Don Muang, Lak Si, Bang Khen, Chatuchak, Bang Sue and Sai Mai.
City officials have issued a warning for residents in the six districts - in northern Bangkok - to move belongings to higher places in preparation for possible flooding.
Mr Sukhumbhand said the BMA would work to the best of its ability to defend the 'old' airport, which houses the government's Flood Relief Operation Centre (Froc), to ensure the centre continues to work without interruption.
Floodwalls were also strengthened around the Lat Krabang and Bang Chan industrial estates on the eastern outskirts, where some of the runoff water is expected to pass.
He promised to put up the best protection for Bangkok - inner and outer areas alike. 'I will not abandon any Bangkok area - whether it's inner or outer. I will not allow any area to be flooded (for a long time) unless it is inevitable. When there is flooding, the water will be pumped out quickly.'
Floodwalls in the east of the city would be strengthened. He called on volunteers to help fill sandbags at Krungthep Kritha-Romklao Road in Lat Krabang on Tuesday.
Mr Sukhumbhand said some roads in north Bangkok, such as Sirindhorn, Phaholyothin, Vibhavadi-Rangsit, and Sai Mai, were partly flooded.
He also warned of possible flooding in northern parts of the city due to higher water levels in canals such as Hok Wa, Thawee Watthana and Prem Prachakorn. This was due to the opening of city gates to help speed up water into the sea.
Some 88 spots in eastern Bangkok - particularly roads and communities in low-lying areas along canals - have already been flooded due to recent rains. Nong Chok was the worst hit.
The governor said leaks in temporary flood-walls along the Chao Phraya River - such as those at Rama VII Bridge and Bang Krabue intersection - had been repaired.
The governor expressed concern it might rain in Bangkok later this week. He said rain would mean officials would have to spend longer pumping water out. 'However, the BMA's water-pumping system is still working well and there is no problem.'
Bangkok braces for unstoppable flood waters
Published on Oct 25, 2011
Millions of people in the Thai capital nervously prepared for the advancing and seemingly unstoppable flood waters on Monday after a fresh warning for residents to evacuate certain danger zones. -- PHOTO: AP
BANGKOK (AFP) - Millions of people in the Thai capital nervously prepared for the advancing and seemingly unstoppable flood waters on Monday after a fresh warning for residents to evacuate certain danger zones.
Bangkok authorities said late Sunday that large volumes of water were flowing towards low-lying Bangkok and were closing in on six city districts, including areas just north of the city centre.
The announcement came after the Thai government said it would set up a distribution centre in the capital to help replenish empty supermarket shelves in preparation for the floods that have so far largely spared the city.
Other parts of the country have been plagued by three months of heavy monsoon rains, which have killed more than 350 people in Thailand and damaged the homes and livelihoods of nine million people.
The six Bangkok districts now of pressing concern include Chatujak, home to a giant weekend market popular with tourists, and Don Mueang, where the city's second largest airport is currently doubling up as a flood refuge centre.
Airport officials said the roads by the terminals were swamped by 70 to 80cm of water and had become impassable for small vehicles, though the Don Mueang compound itself remained dry for now.
'If anything affects Bangkok it will have an impact on the whole country, so it's very important to take care of Bangkok in order for the country to survive,' city governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said in a televised address on Monday.
On Sunday his administration called on residents in the six critical districts who faced 'potential dangers to lives and properties' to evacuate to emergency shelters.
Hundreds of worried residents have parked cars on bridges and elevated roads. Adding to concerns were photographs and televised footage of sizeable crocodiles captured by villagers and authorities in a province north of Bangkok, after a number of the reptiles escaped from flooded farms.
The World Health Organisation has warned that infections, water-borne and communicable diseases, such as diarrhoea, were key concerns for flood victims, who were also warned to be beware of electrocution and snake bites.
Hospitals in flood-risk zones have been told by the public health ministry to stockpile medicines and other supplies to last as long as three weeks.
The government has said it would discuss measures in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to help the nation's hundreds of flood-affected factories get back on track, with financial aid and tax incentives among the ideas mooted.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra again rejected criticism that her administration was not keeping the public fully informed, telling reporters there was 'no cover-up but new factors arise every day'.
Authorities are desperately trying to drain billions of cubic metres of water from upcountry out to sea through rivers and canals in and around the city by opening sluice gates in the capital - a risky strategy.
'There are several factors that we can't control. The water is coming in two directions,' Ms Yingluck said at the weekend.
Another major test is expected between Oct 28 and 30 when seasonal high tides flow up Bangkok's Chao Phraya river, meeting run-off water from the north.
Ms Yingluck said the city should prepare for possible inundation up to one metre deep and warned it could take six weeks for the flooding to recede.
Thai troops on Sunday reinforced vulnerable barriers along the Chao Phraya river after a sudden rise in the water level prompted concern.
Thammasat University, serving as a shelter to the north of Bangkok, began evacuating refugees early on Monday after water levels inside the campus reached 1.5m, vice-rector Kampol Ruchiwit said on television.
Across the country, more than 110,000 evacuees have been forced to seek refuge in 1,743 shelters to escape the waters, and tens of thousands of soldiers and police have been mobilised to maintain order.
Most of Thailand's top tourist destinations and the capital's main airport have so far been unaffected.
Flood-hit Thailand declines offer of help: US Navy
Published on Oct 25, 2011
The US Navy has withdrawn several ships sent to help with relief efforts in flood-hit Thailand after receiving 'mixed' messages from the Bangkok government, a defence official said on Monday. -- PHOTO: AFP
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Navy has withdrawn several ships sent to help with relief efforts in flood-hit Thailand after receiving 'mixed' messages from the Bangkok government, a defence official said on Monday.
The USS George Washington aircraft carrier and other ships were deployed to the area on Oct 16 for potential disaster relief work as Thailand faced massive flooding from monsoon rains, said Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander John Perkins.
But the US military never received a formal request from the Thai government and the three-ship aircraft carrier group along with a fourth ship, the USS Kidd, were released and left the area on Friday, said Lt Cmdr Perkins, spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet based in Hawaii.
'We are ready to help but we haven't got a request,' said a US defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. 'There were two channels (in the Thai government),' the defence official told AFP. 'One was saying 'Yes' and one was saying 'No.''
Hopes left behind in wreckage of Turkey quake
Published on Oct 25, 2011
Hopes of finding more survivors from a massive earthquake that killed nearly 300 people in eastern Turkey were diminishing as more bodies were recovered by rescuers who have rushed from all around the country. -- PHOTO: AP
VAN, Turkey (AFP) - Hopes of finding more survivors from a massive earthquake that killed nearly 300 people in eastern Turkey were diminishing as more bodies were recovered by rescuers who have rushed from all around the country.
'We recovered his baby bed,' said a 34-year-old man whose nine-month-old nephew was lying beneath piles of rubble. His desperately sad and pleading eyes were speaking volumes about his suffering.
'God willing we will find him alive too,' he said, without diverting his eyes from the scene where rescue operations continued nonstop for two days. The man said his brother, the baby's father, was also under the collapsed building.
The 7.2 magnitude earthquake, which struck on Sunday in eastern Van city, collapsed a seven-storey building in one of the central areas in the city. Rescuers have thus far recovered seven bodies from the building as efforts were continuing overnight.
Hurricane Rina forms in Caribbean: US forecasters
Published on Oct 25, 2011
Rina strengthened into a hurricane on Monday in the western Caribbean, threatening to bring heavy rain and strong wind to an already waterlogged Central America and Mexico's Yucatan, US forecasters said. -- PHOTO: AFP
MIAMI (AFP) - Rina strengthened into a hurricane on Monday in the western Caribbean, threatening to bring heavy rain and strong wind to an already waterlogged Central America and Mexico's Yucatan, US forecasters said.
After forming as a tropical storm overnight, Rina quickly powered up to hurricane status and is now likely to barrel into Belize and Mexico's popular tourist coast on the Yucatan peninsula by the end of the week, the National Hurricane Center said in a special 1800 GMT (2am Singapore time) bulletin.
'Additional strengthening is expected during the next 48 hours and Rina is forecast to become a major (Category 3) hurricane by late Tuesday,' the Miami-based NHC said. Rina is currently a Category 1 storm on the five-level Saffir-Simpson wind scale with sustained winds of 120kmh.
The sixth hurricane and 17th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season was about 314km south-west of Grand Cayman island and some 579km east of Chetumal, Mexico, traveling north-west at about 11kmh, the NHC said.