Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, apparently close to tears as she briefed the media on Thailand's worst flooding for half a century, warned Bangkok's 12 million residents "we're fighting against the forces of nature" and said flood waters were damaging several of the city's dykes. Residents of Sai Mai district were told to evacuate to safer ground and Don Muang airport, location of the government's flood relief operations centre, was inundated.
"What we can do now is to manage it, so that it flows slowly, otherwise everybody will suffer," Yingluck told reporters, her voice trembling. "I haven't cried and I won't. I'll be strong to solve this problem for the Thai people. Right now we need to release floodwater to the sea as soon as possible and we need a quick rehabilitation plan."
The floods, caused in part by unusually heavy monsoon rain, have already killed 373 people in Thailand and disrupted the lives of nearly 2.5 million, until now mostly in the north and central provinces. The rains have also killed dozens in neighbouring Cambodia and Burma.
By Thursday night, floodwaters had overwhelmed seven of Bangkok's 50 districts, mostly on the northern outskirts. Roads became rivers, and homes and businesses were swamped. Relief agencies believe most if not all of the city could be flooded with waters rising between 20cm and 2 metres in the coming days. High tides this weekend are likely to place more pressure on the city's limited flood defences and could swell the Chao Phraya river to overflow flood barriers lining its banks. In the meantime, many people are remaining in their homes.
"The mayor of Bangkok has said that of the 140 evacuation centres that have been set up only a quarter are being used and none are full," Matt Cochrane, spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross in Bangkok, told the Guardian. "It is all about waiting and what is coming. This is the beginning of the potential humanitarian crisis for Bangkok. There is going to be water in most or all of the city. It won't be a tsunami, it is more likely to be a gradual rise."
Yingluck has warned the flood waters could stay for as long as a month. The Red Cross believes this will threaten a particular type of urban crisis in which public transport grinds to a halt, there are breaks in electricity leaving the city sweltering in 35C heat and 100% humidity, and the risks of mosquito-borne disease multiply.
And there are other dangers lurking in the waters. "When my father leaves to get food he makes sure he closes all the gates and doors – not to prevent intruders but to keep out the crocodiles," said Nara Rathnarathon, a resident in the north of the city. Thailand is reckoned to be the world's biggest breeder of crocodiles and scores are reported to have escaped from farms during the floods. Several have been killed or captured in residential areas in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. Cochrane said parents had been told to keep children out of any gardens that remained dry because they could be safe havens for venomous snakes.
The economic impact is already being felt. At least seven huge industrial estates have already shut to the north of Bangkok, causing the central bank to revise down its growth forecast the economy from 4% to 3.1%.
Websites have posted instructions on the proper way to stack sandbags and residents have fortified homes with bricks, gypsum board and plastic sheets. Walls of sandbags or cinder blocks cover building entrances.
There has been panic buying in supermarkets, where bottled water is scarce, but many of the city's thousands of restaurants, bars and food stalls are operating as usual.
Nuntaporn Khorcharoen, whose home is next to the heavily inundated Bang Phlat district, told the Associated Press her family had stocked up and was staying put. "My father is adamant we have to stay to oversee the situation," the 30-year-old said. "He said even without electricity we will still have something to live on."
The defence ministry said 50,000 armed forces personnel were standing by with 1,000 boats and 1,000 vehicles to help evacuate people.
"We're considering whether we should order an evacuation of Tawee Wattana district as the flood situation there is worrying," said Bangkok's governor, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, after more water surged into Tawee Wattana canal.
Bangkok is a city of sandbags where instant noodles are like gold dust and bottled water like vintage wine. Amid the panic-induced bare shelves there is bewilderment in the air: what exactly is going to happen to Thailand's capital?
Plenty of true grit in the city of sandbags
All along downtown Asoke Road, locals have been fortifying their shopfronts, some opting to build little cement walls as a last line of defence against floodwater that is gushing into the city and disturbing people on the outskirts and near the mighty Chao Phraya river.
Bangkok's 10 million residents have been expecting the worst for a while – waiting for 4bn cubic metres of rain water to start draining through the city from the north – but on Thursday many of the streets remained bone dry.
Advice from the authorities has ranged from "get out now!" to "don't panic!" and some of the wealthier residents have already packed up to clog the roads and take impromptu vacations south, to beach resorts such as Hua Hin, while others remain behind, ready to face the elements.
"My family was too chilled about preparing for the flooding, which is probably a pretty bad thing," said Aim Monobelle, 25, who is staying with friends while her family sticks it out in western Bangkok. "I would say most older people don't want to leave their houses, thinking it's not going be too bad. I am trying to convince them to move – anywhere but Bangkok – because it's risky, but they are not listening to me."
For people 50 miles north of Bangkok, in Ayutthaya province, there was little else to be done but watch as the roads turned into rivers and water inundated their homes. People now get around by long-tail boat or leaky creations fashioned out of old oil drums, tyre inner tubes or large tubs.
Some 2.5 million people have been affected by the flooding in Thailand, including 800,000 children, many of whom are lacking basic necessities such as nappies and food. Getting aid to those people has proved a challenge. Plan, a global child-rights organisation, travelled by truck, boat and fire engine on Saturday to deliver 900 relief kits to families in Bang Pa-in, Ayutthaya, but many more are still in need. Not everyone is fleeing. "I'm not going to desert the city in its time of need. I'm staying right here," Richard Barrow, a Thailand-based blogger, proclaimed on Twitter.
by Robert Booth and Andrew Chambers taken from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/27/bangkok-floods-evacuation-thailand