By The Nation
EVEN IN THE absence of more rain, it will take at least 10 days for floodwaters to drain from the heavily-inundated Sakon Nakhon province into the Mekong River through the neighbouring province of Nakhon Phanom.
Authorities estimated that the drainage would take about 11 days before the flood situation returned to normal, the National News Bureau of Thailand reported yesterday. However, that estimate was based on the condition there would not be more rain, which would result in increased floodwaters affecting the province from upriver areas, the report said.
Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chatchai Sarikalya, who yesterday inspected the flood situation in Sakon Nakhon, said the Royal Irrigation Department was installing 26 water pumps in an attempt to push floodwaters into the Mekong River.
“The goal is to release water into the Mekong River within seven days, unless there is more rain,” he said.
Eighteen provinces have been flooded as a result of the recent tropical storm Sonca – 12 in the Northeast, four in the North, and one each in the Central and South regions, Chatchai said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has dismissed allegations of mismanagement and a lack of government warning of severe flooding in the Northeast.
Prayut said he did not want the suffering of flood victims to be politicised in an effort to discredit the government, according to spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd. He said state agencies had frequently issued weather warnings but that the severe flooding stemmed from a natural disaster, not government mismanagement.
A government flood relief centre will be set up at Government House today to coordinate assistance, donations and rehabilitation efforts for flood victims, Prime Minister’s Office Minister Ormsin Chivapruck said yesterday.
He also invited members of the public to make cash donations for flood victims through a PM’s Office account with the state-run Krungthai Bank.
Interior Ministry permanent secretary Grisada Boonrach arrived in Nakhon Phanom on Saturday night to meet with senior local officials, including Governor Somchai Witdamrong, to prepare measures to cope with large amounts of floodwaters draining from Sakon Nakhon.
Nakhon Phanom’s main water sluice is capable of releasing about 25 million square metres of water per day, but 35 million square metres of floodwaters from Sakon Nakhon are passing through the province and the surplus water had submerged many areas of Nakhon Phanom yesterday.
More powerful water pumps were being installed in the province to help with the operation, but hundreds of Nakhon Phanom residents were struggling with floods yesterday as run-off from Sakon Nakhon deluged the province.
Floods had swamped some districts, submerging hundreds of houses and several thousand rai of farmland. Local officials were busy delivering assistance and arranging evacuations for affected residents.
Flooding in 18 districts of Sakon Nakhon – the hardest hit of provinces affected by the recent tropical storm – has caused anxiety and serious problems for residents, according to the provincial disaster prevention and mitigation office. The floods have left several communities marooned for the past three days, with victims facing shortages of food and water. The downtown area of Muang district has been hardest hit.
The Royal Thai Army (RTA) planned to dispatch helicopters for flood-relief operations in the six most-affected provinces.
RTA deputy spokesperson Colonel Sirichan Nga-thong said yesterday Army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sittisart had ordered military helicopters to support the relief and rescue operations in Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, Maha Sarakham, Buri Ram and Phetchabun. She said the move would complement ongoing operations by the RTA to help evacuate flood victims and move their belongings to higher ground.
Army teams have also delivered food and relief items to flooded areas.