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Rising Mekong threatens provinces in Thailand and Laos

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PHOTOS: The Nation

Authorities in Thailand’s northern and northeastern provinces are watching the rising water levels in the Mekong after torrential rains have hit large stretches of the country causing flooding in both residential and agricultural areas.

The Mekong river flows through parts of China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department has instructed its offices in 59 provinces in all regions of the country to be “fully prepared” for overflowing rivers, flash floods and landslides following days of heavy downpours, director-general Chayapol Thitisak said yesterday. Of the 59 provinces, 17 are in the North, 20 in the Northeast, eight in the Central region and 14 in the South.

Riverside provinces like Chiang Rai, Mukdahan, Nakhon Phanom, Nong Khai and Ubon Ratchathani yesterday reported a continuing increase towards the critical point in the Mekong’s water levels. In Mukdahan, the river’s highest water level was recorded at 12.3 metres, just 18 centimetres below the bank.

After 15 days of downpours in Nakhon Phanom, water in the Mekong section passing the province stood at 11.5 metres yesterday – 1.5 metres below the critical level. This has led to many tributaries overflowing and flooding eight districts of Nakhon Phanom, prompting local authorities to declare them disaster zones.

Chiang Rai province’s riverside Chiang Khong district saw a sharp rise in the Mekong’s water levels to 7 metres, up from the normal 3-4 metres, compared to the critical level of 10 metres. The district chief, Tassanai Suthapoj, said he had convened a meeting of local administrators about preparations for possible flooding. He attributed the rise in the Mekong water volumes to heavy rains and extra water released from a dam in southern China.

Rising Mekong threatens provinces in Thailand and Laos | News by Thaiger

Read more about the Mekong Flood Plains HERE.

In Ubon Ratchathani, many areas in five riverside districts were flooded due to overflows from the Mekong. Several roads connecting villages and other parts of the province became impassable. Elderly villagers said they believed this year’s rains could be the heaviest in 40 years. In 1978, heavy downpours had led to the Mekong overflowing and causing severe floods that hit large farming areas of the province.

Authorities in Nong Khai province yesterday warned residents in riverside areas to be prepared for possible overflows from the Mekong, as water levels continued to rise following days of heavy rains. All river shipping operators in the province have halted operations on the river due to safety concerns. Meanwhile, four families in the Sop Moei district of the northern Mae Hong Son province were evacuated yesterday after cracks developed in their houses as a result of land subsidence. Local officials said there was a risk of landslides following heavy rains in the area.

In Nan, another northern province, 65 families in the Bo Kluea district requested state assistance for relocation after a landslide in their village left eight residents dead over the past weekend. The cremation of the eight landslide victims in Nan was held yesterday.

Large volumes of water released from Laos’ dams have been blamed for floods in many riverside provinces on the Thai side. Chainarong Setthachua, a lecturer at Maha Sarakham University, said he thought the imminent increase in the water levels in riverside areas was due to the release of water from Nam Theun 2 Dam in Laos. More release of water from Nam Ngum 5 Dam across the river could worsen the situation, he warned.

On the Laos side, flood victims in the Sanamxay district of Attapeu province were still in need of essential items, especially food, rice, drinking water, clothing, blankets, medicines and other daily necessities. More than 10,000 people were relocated to shelter centres in Attapeu and Champassak provinces after inundation from a dam collapse hit 13 villages.

Rising Mekong threatens provinces in Thailand and Laos | News by Thaiger Rising Mekong threatens provinces in Thailand and Laos | News by Thaiger

SOURCE: The Nation

 

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Thailand

More than 15,000 foreigners arrested since January for illegal border crossings

Thaiger

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Photo via Facebook/ Kanchanaburi News

Thousands of foreign nationals have been arrested this year for illegally crossing land borders into Thailand. Due to fears that those entering Thailand illegally and evading the mandatory 14-day quarantine could possibly lead to the spread of Covid-19, particularly more contagious variants of the virus, Thai authorities say they will take tough legal action on illegal migrants and labour traffickers.

From January 1 to May 9, a total of 15,378 people have been arrested for illegally crossing land borders into Thailand. Out of the people arrested, 6,072 were from Myanmar, 5,114 were from Cambodia and 882 were from Laos.

The Thai Immigration Bureau is working with border patrol officers to tighten security along Thailand’s borders, the bureau’s chief Sompong Chingduang told the Bangkok Post.

“Those who enter Thailand illegally will be prosecuted under the immigration law, the communicable diseases and the emergency decree.”

In Thailand’s last wave of Covid-19 infections in December and January, fingers pointed at illegal Burmese migrants as the epicentre of infections were concentrated at a fishing hub in Samut Sakhon, affecting a large migrant worker population.

With the recent wave of infections peaking drastically higher than the past outbreaks in Thailand and said to be linked to the more contagious variant of the virus first found in the UK, health officials are now tightening security and control measures along the borders to prevent more cases.

Border security is also being increased to prevent the emergence of the variant of the virus first detected in India. The director of the Health Science Centre of Emerging Diseases at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of medicine made a post on Facebook saying he was concerned the variant could be imported into Thailand and cause another wave of infections.

“In the next few months, the variant found in India may slip across the border into Thailand from Myanmar. Business operators are now importing illegal migrants again… If the border is left unchecked like this and no tough measures are imposed in Bangkok and adjacent provinces, brace yourselves for a fourth wave. The current third wave will pale by comparison.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Vietnam

Beaches closed in Vietnam following rise in Covid-19 infections

Maya Taylor

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A beach in Hoi An, Vietnam. PHOTO: Flickr/Vannier.j.fr Vannier

Several beaches have been closed in Vietnam as the country battles a resurgence of the Covid-19 virus. Officials in Hai Phong City have closed Do Son and Cat Co beaches following news that 47 new infections had been reported in the country’s capital, Hanoi. In Quang Ninh province, which is 150 kilometres east of the capital, Tuan Chau, Quan Lan, and Ti Top beaches have all been closed until May 23, in an effort to discourage visitors from Hanoi.

In the central province of Quang Nam, health officials have also decided to close beaches in the picturesque World Heritage town of Hoi An. In Da Nang, which has more than 30 kilometres of beaches, the authorities have shut them indefinitely until the source of the recent outbreak is identified and isolated. 5 new infections have been reported in Da Nang and 1 in Hoi An.

The beach towns of Nha Trang and Phu Yen in the central region have erected barriers to limit access to the beaches, but have stopped short of an outright ban. In Quang Binh province, tours to the famous caves in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park have also been suspended. The popular tourist attraction is a UNESCO World Heritage site and its Son Doong cave system is believed to be the largest in the world.

Between April 28 and May 10, Vietnam has experienced a rise in Covid-19 infections, with 637 new cases reported after a relatively clear period since mid-March. It’s understood 25 cities and towns are affected, including Hanoi, with 10 government hospitals in lockdown.

On the whole, Vietnam has been praised for its handling of the pandemic, with outbreaks quickly contained, mass testing carried out, and a centralised quarantine programme implemented. Since the start of the pandemic, the country has reported 3,571 infections and 35 deaths.

SOURCE: TTR Weekly

 

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Philippines

Over 190,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine touch down in the Philippines

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Twitter/World Health Organisation Philippines

The Covid-19 vaccine rollout in the Philippines just got a significant boost, thanks to the arrival of at least 193,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. The much-needed supply was donated by Covax, a global initiative set up to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. Thailand declined to join Covax when given the opportunity, preferring to strike deals with manufacturers directly.

The shipment is the fourth consignment of Covid-19 vaccines to be delivered via Covax and the first shipment of Pfizer doses to arrive in the Philippines. Coconuts reports that in total, Covax has donated 2.74 million vaccine doses to the Philippines, which includes the latest delivery of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. It’s understood that over the weekend, 2 million doses of AstraZeneca also arrived via Covax.

The Philippines’ Health Secretary, Francisco Duque, says the Pfizer doses will be administered in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao, to healthcare workers, the elderly and people with underlying conditions that put them at greater risk from Covid-19.

“We have been working hard to bring these vaccines to the country especially with the scarce global supply of Covid-19 vaccines. We thank the Covax facility and all of our partners for making this possible.”

Coconuts reports that the Pfizer shipment was supposed to arrive in February but was delayed due to a lack of an indemnity law, which caught the government off-guard. Prior to the arrival of the Pfizer doses, thousands of doses of Sinovac, Sputnik V, and AstraZeneca have been administered to the population, but the rollout has been slow up to now. The government says it aims to have the rest of the population vaccinated by August.

SOURCE: Coconuts

 

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