PHUKET: Representatives of numerous government agencies started work this morning at the newly established ‘Flood-Relief Operations Command’ in a concerted effort to help Thailand through one of the worst flooding crises in its recent history.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced the establishment of the command in a televised address last night.
“This is now a national effort,” she said. “We will try to ease the flooding situation before mid-October. We have to improve the situation before another storm hits and before the seawater level rises.”
To date, floods have ravaged 28 provinces and affected the lives of more than 2.69 million people. The death toll from the disaster has reached 252, and at least three people are reported missing.
Despite severe flooding in some areas of the province over the past month, Phuket has recorded no flood-related deaths to date and is not among the 28 provinces “affected”.
While Yingluck will continue to supervise overall flood-relief operations, Justice Minister Pracha Promnok has been named director of the Flood-Relief Operation Command.
Located in Bangkok’s Don Mueang district, the command centre was scheduled to begin operations at 8am today.
Science Minister Plodprasob Surassawadee will head the operations unit, working with officials in flooded provinces, the premier said. The unit’s main duties are to deliver food and relief items, and to evacuate flood victims.
Transport Minister ACM Sukampol Suwannathat will head the second unit, which will support the operations unit by analysing situations, issuing alerts and taking charge of overall water management.
Yingluck expected all provincial authorities to adopt the same structure as the Flood-Relief Operation Command to facilitate their flood-relief work.
The command was set up in response to the rising floodwater levels, and follows authorities’ decision not to try to protect the Asia Highway from inundation. This highway is the most important route linking the Central region to the upper part of the country.
Floodwater has now covered a long stretch of the highway’s outbound lanes in Ayutthaya, which is about a one-hour drive from Bangkok.
“The flooded stretch is more than 10 kilometres long,” Sukampol said.
If officials had sought to keep the Asia Highway clear of floodwater, Bangkok would have been affected, he said.
An informed source said the decision to stop defending the Asia Highway was also taken to protect a large number of factories in Ayutthaya, where in the worst-hit spots the water is now a few metres deep. Many people have been forced to retreat to the second storeys of their homes.
In another central province, Angthong Governor Wissawa Sasisamit said all local administrative bodies now have plans in place to evacuate residents.
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