By The Nation
NORTHEASTERN provinces have been warned of heavy flooding due to the overflowing Mekong River and reservoirs, following days of heavy rains.
The warning by local authorities came as Thailand braces for at least two more storms originating in the Pacific Ocean between August and September.
Rising water levels in Mekong River yesterday caused flooding in many areas of Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Phanom and Mukdahan provinces, which are located along the international waterway.
In Sakon Nakhon, following five days of heavy rains, large amounts of overflowing water from small dams and reservoirs increased the water level in Nong Han Lake, which is spread over 72,000 rai (28,466 acres) in the northeastern province’s Muang district.
Local residents have been warned to move their belongings to higher ground in preparation for possible inundation, particularly in areas around the lake.
In Ubon Ratchathani province, water levels in the Mekong along its Khong Chiam, Khemarat, Na Tan and Pho Sai districts continued to rise after days of downpours.
Low-lying areas in those districts were underwater yesterday. Hundreds of rai of farmland became flooded as a result.
Residents and their cattle were evacuated to safer areas.
In Nakhon Phanom, farming areas along the Mekong were inundated yesterday, as rains lashed the entire province.
The highest water level in the river that passes the province’s municipal area was measured at 11.27 metres, which is 1.73 metres below the critical level.
Residents in low-lying and riverside areas have been advised to move their belongings to higher ground and brace for possible flooding.
In Mukdahan province, many roads became impassable following a flash flood caused by rains. Many rice and rubber plantations were submerged and roads to several communities cut off. Provincial authorities said the water level in Mekong River reached a high of 11.44 metres, whereas the critical level is 12.5 metres.
Local officials and residents were on high alert for a second round of inundation, after more heavy rains yesterday.
The Meteorological Department has predicted heavy downpours in the North and Northeast for the rest of the month, covering as much as 80 per cent of the areas.
Meanwhile, authorities in Kanchanaburi province have warned of possible flooding in five districts as the province’s Vajiralongkorn Dam is holding record volumes of water.
Provincial governor Jirakiat Phumsawat sent an urgent letter to the chiefs of five districts – Muang, Thong Pha Phum, Sai Yok, Tha Muang and Tha Maka – likely to be affected by the large volumes of water being released from the dam.
The dam is holding 3,325 million cubic metres of water – the largest volume in 34 years. It is releasing 28 million cubic metres of water a day in order to maintain the appropriate volume of water in its reservoir, following continuous heavy rains, according to the governor’s letter.
Local officials maintained that the dam remained stable and safe.
Four major dams in the Central region – Bhumibol, Sirikit, Kwae Noi and Pasak Jalasid – are holding about 55 per cent of their combined capacity, according to the Royal Irrigation Department. Too much water released from those dams could affect Bangkok and the surrounding provinces.
Heavy rains have caused flooding and landslides in different areas of the country, including Kanchanaburi in the West and Nan in the North.
In Tak, a landslide partly damaged a house in Mae Sot district yesterday. All residents of the house were safe.
Earlier, landslides over the weekend in Nan’s Bo Kluea district resulted in eight deaths and shut down several roads.
The district chief ordered the evacuation of 33 remaining families from a valley village after a mudslide from a mountain buried four houses, killing eight villagers.
Nan Governor Paisal Wimonrat said yesterday resources had been mobilised, “but as of now, you still cannot use many roads”. Access to Bo Kluea was only possible via Pua district, he said.
Thailand’s neighbouring countries Myanmar and Laos have also been affected by heavy rains.
Heavy monsoon rains have pounded southeast Myanmar in recent days and show no signs of abating, raising fears that the worst might be yet to come. Floodwaters have forced thousands from their homes.
In Laos, a man was killed and two others injured when their truck loaded with provisions and donated items for Laotians affected by floodwaters plunged into a river in Savannakhet province.
The vehicle accident site was about 80 kilometres from Attapeu province, which was inundated last Monday after the collapse of a rockfilled saddle section of the Xe Pien-Xe Namnoy dam, releasing tonnes of water onto six nearby villages.
Rescue workers rushed to the accident scene and found debris from the truck about 50 metres below a road bridge.
They had to use ropes to abseil from the bridge to the truck below.
The injured passengers were raised from the truck by stretchers. They told rescuers that they were Laotians and had left Pakse in Champasak province to deliver things donated by Thai and foreign authorities to those affected by inundation in Attapeu when the accident happened.
One of them said the truck was taking a turn when its brakes appeared to malfunction. The vehicle then skidded off the road, hit the bridge’s rail and plunged into the river.