Airlines forced to suspend services from airport, some flights diverted to Suvarnabhumi; FROC to maintain HQ at Don Mueang, but 3,000 flood victims will be evacuated
In Bangkok’s most critical day to date, run-off water approaching the Don Mueang Airport yesterday forced airlines to suspend their services and threatened the headquarters of the government’s Flood Relief Operations Centre (FROC), which decided however not to switch location.
Low-cost carrier Nok Air cancelled flights to and from Don Mueang from noon for safety reasons. Its flights from foreign destinations were diverted to Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Nok Air services have been suspended until November 1, chief executive Patee Sarasin said.
Orient Thai, another low-cost airline, moved its services to Suvarna-bhumi from yesterday. The shift to Bangkok’s main airport is temporary, according to the carrier’s Facebook page. All of Orient Thai’s afternoon and evening flights from regional airports yesterday were diverted to Suvarnabhumi.
Water levels on Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road in front of Don Mueang Airport, and on Phaholyothin Road at the back, were rising dangerously yesterday – by more than 60 centimetres in some areas – particularly on the Phaholyothin section between the Air Force and Sai Mai intersections.
The FROC issued a warning for motorists leaving their cars on the first floor of Don Mueang Airport’s car-park building to move them to higher ground, as the airport was expected to be flooded.
Flood barriers made of small rocks and sandbags were constructed at the airport’s entrances.
Despite these developments, the FROC resolved yesterday evening to keep its headquarters inside Don Mueang Airport’s domestic passengers building, the centre’s spokesman, Wim Rungwattanajinda, said.
He said the centre’s main working area was on the second floor, adding that the section responsible for packing relief items for flood victims, now on the first floor, would be moved to the warehouse.
The spokesman said parts of the airport compound were expected to be under no more than 1 metre of flood water on Friday.
However, more than 3,000 people at Don Mueang Airport – evacuated there from flood-hit areas in upstream provinces – were yesterday moved again, this time to the Physical Science College in Chon Buri.
Justice Minister Pracha Promnok, head of the FROC, said the centre was working with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to protect the airport. He said there was no need for the centre to be moved as it was still able to function at its current location.
“We are trying to work out this problem [at Don Mueang Airport] with the BMA. We aim to block the water by today [Tuesday], particularly water from the National Memorial. It depends on how fast we can work,” he said.
Bangkok Governor MR Sukhum-bhand Paribatra said flood water at the airport could not be pumped out at the moment because water levels in the nearby Rangsit and Prem Prachakorn canals remained high.
“What we can do now is to build walls of sandbags at the entrances and exits,” he said.
The governor suggested that evacuees inside the airport compound be moved for safety reasons, as there was the likelihood of an even higher water level.
Sukhumbhand said he was not opposed to a plan of using Bangkok roads for the release of run-off water into the sea. “I just want them to tell me first, so that measures can be taken to protect residents on both sides of the roads,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Navy yesterday was preparing for the evacuation of residents in Bang Phlat and Thawi Watthana districts on the Thon Buri side of the capital, said Navy chief Admiral Surasak Runroengrom. He said the evacuees would be moved to the new Navy command building.
Surasak also called for unity among Thais in order to survive the crisis.
He added that the Navy was monitoring the water situation on the western side of Bangkok, particularly in Thawi Watthana Canal and at Siriraj Hospital, where His Majesty the King is hospitalised.
He said Navy personnel had built more than 50 rafts and a number of small boats to be distributed to residents of flood-hit areas in Ayutthaya and Nonthaburi.
Many major roads in Bangkok have been flooded and ordered closed, including a long section of Charan Sanitwong from Bang Phlat intersection to Rama VII Bridge. This section of road is submerged in waist-high flood water.
Other roads ordered to be closed, all in eastern Bangkok and totalling 39 kilometres, in order to make way for flood barriers on traffic islands, are: a section of Sai Mai Road from its beginning to Chathabubeksa intersection; a combination of Hathai Rat, Hathai Nimitr and Nimit Mai roads to Suwinthawong intersection; and Rom Klao Road from Onnuj to Kingkaew Road.
A 1-kilometre Phaholyothin Road stretch in front of the Air Force headquarters to the National Memorial Monument has also been closed, as has another section from Rangsit to Bang Khant junction.