Bangkok’s second airport shut down today as floodwaters advanced into the Thai capital, forcing authorities in “crisis mode” to declare a five-day public holiday in preparation for the deluge.
The Cabinet ordered an October 27-31 holiday for Bangkok and 20 other provinces affected by the kingdom’s worst flooding in decades, amid warnings a high tide would surge up the capital’s main river and escalate the disaster.
In a televised address to the kingdom late today, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra gave a stark prediction of the potential impact of the flooding, saying the water was “at full force, which is more than the barriers can hold”.
She said it was “highly likely” that all of Bangkok, including the inner zone, would flood, with a “worst case scenario” seeing water levels of up to 1.5 metres in some parts.
Her Cabinet decided on the extra-long weekend at a meeting in Don Mueang airport in the city’s north, which handles domestic flights and has also been doubling as an evacuee shelter and a headquarters for flood relief operations.
But as the waters that have already flooded several northern and eastern districts of Bangkok closed in, airport officials announced the two runways will shut until November 1.
About 100 domestic flights normally operate from the airport each day.
Yingluck, who is facing her first major crisis since coming to power in August, said before the Cabinet meeting that the evacuees sheltering there would also have to relocate.
The public holidays are designed to allow Bangkok’s 12 million residents to brace for the floods now creeping towards the city centre after swamping other parts of the nation, killing some 360 people and damaging millions of homes.
Poor people and animals!