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Sunday, 9 October 2011

Floods devastate Thailand and Cambodia

Cambodia fears communicable diseases could spread in the floods' aftermath [Reuters]

Thai PM forced to postpone official visits as death toll hits 250 while in neighbouring Cambodia at least 160 are dead.

Last Modified: 09 Oct 2011
Al Jazeera

Deadly floods have wreaked havoc in Thailand and Cambodia, severing rail links and damaging highways, and sparking fears of a potential spread of water-borne and communicable diseases.

Thai officials say at least 253 people have been killed since the worst monsoon rains in decades started in the past two months while in Cambodia at least 169 people have been killed.

"We worry that after the flood there will be an outbreak of severe diarrhoea," Cambodia's ministry of health official Ly Sovann said, according to the Phnom Penh Post.

"We need people to pay attention to their hygiene and sanitation, especially clean drinking water," the official said, adding that dysentery was another potential threat.

The ministry has already distributed chlorine tablets used to clean drinking water at district level for those affected by the floods, the Post reported.

Yingluck Shinawatra, the Thai prime minister, said the floods had reached a crisis level and forced her to postpone official visits to Singapore and Malaysia.

Yingluck was scheduled to fly to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively as part of an introductory tour of the region after coming to power in August.

"The trips are postponed due to the floods," Titima Chaisaeng, a government spokesman, told the AFP news agency on Sunday.

The floods have severed rail links with the north, shut dozens of highways and swamped ancient Buddhist temples in the city of Ayutthaya.

Eight million affected

Thailand's disaster prevention department said eight million people in 60 of the country's 77 provinces had been affected by floods and mudslides since late July, and three million acres of agricultural land had been damaged.

This past week in Ayutthaya, north of the capital Bangkok, Japanese car giant Honda suspended production for one week after parts factories were submerged.

Sukhumbhand Paribatra, Bangkok's governor, called an emergency meeting of concerned agencies on Saturday to map out evacuation plans and set up temporary shelters.

Water released from major dams in the north was expected to arrive in Bangkok next week, the Bangkok Post reported, quoting Sukhumbhand.

It added that the most worrying time would be between October 16 and 18 when the northern waterflow combined with the high tide and projected heavy rainfall could cause severe flooding in the city.

"I don't want to see any [more] deaths, so we have to be well prepared," Sukhumbhand said.

Flood surveillance will focus on 27 communities situated outside the flood prevention wall on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River and the eastern part of Bangkok, including Min Buri, Nong Chok, Lat Krabang and Klong Sam Wa districts, the paper reported.

Southeast Asia has been hit by severe weather conditions in the past couple of months.

In the Philippines, rescue workers have been struggling to evacuate tens of thousands of people trapped in their homes amid fears of floods in the aftermath of Typhoon Nalgae.

Hundreds of people have been killed in China and Japan from prolonged monsoon flooding, typhoons and storms.

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