Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has admitted the government is unable to completely solve the country’s annual flood problems, but he pledged speedy compensation for its victims.
He was speaking on Sunday as he led authorities to visit flood victims in Sukhothai’s Sri Samrong district which has been among the areas hardest hit by tropical storm Dianmu.
As they flew into the province, Gen Chan-o-cha and Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda saw first-hand the magnitude of the problem and discussed relief measures for victims, a source said.
During the visit, the prime minister handed out relief bags containing essential items to flood victims at Ban Khlong Chad in tambon Wang Yai and at Wat Don Chan in tambon Ban Rai in Sri Samrong district. He then went to Wat Ban San in tambon Ban San to inspect relief operations.
“It is a holiday. But when people are in trouble, we can’t take a day off,” Gen Chan-o-cha said.
“The government needs a comprehensive flood management plan for the country as a whole.
“We can’t solve the flood problem 100%. In our country, floodwaters flow from highlands to low-lying areas, from the North to the South. They gather in various rivers, flooding the same areas repeatedly. Therefore, flood management is needed in specific areas and retention reservoirs must be ready to take in water for future use.
“When they [floods] occur, all we can do is to make sure they recede faster and pay compensation as quickly as possible. We have to think of how to keep the damage to a minimum.”
He added that he did not oppose any flood management project, but budget allocations must follow legal procedures and the projects must be subject to public hearings.
On Sunday, floods wreaked havoc in several areas of Sukhothai, particularly the western side of the province, from Khlong Pho intersection on Sukhothai-Muang Khao road all the way to the Big C hypermarket five kilometres away.
In areas near Sukhothai Hospital, Sukhothai Witthakhom School, the Sukhothai College of Dramatic Arts, and the Sukhothai Technical College, the water was 1 metre deep.
Doctors, nurses, hospital staff and visitors had to use boats provided by rescue operation units to get them to the hospital which was walled in with five stacks of sandbags.
Mana Bankluay, a resident in Sri Samrong district, said he wanted the prime minister to relieve the hardship of farmers as much of their land has been devastated.
Several other provinces were also battered by rain from Dianmu yesterday.
In Nakhon Ratchasima, flash floods inundated 4km of local roads, cutting off 22 villages from outer areas.
Torrents of water cascaded down from the mountain range in nearby Chaiyaphum before growing into a deep single channel which flowed into Upper Lam Chiangkrai reservoir in Dan Khun Thot district which is now 17% over its maximum capacity.
The storm has also extended to Tak’s Umphang district, where an overflowing dam and river which burst its banks inundated the municipality.
Many houses were left underwater and cars blocked several roads. Umphang-Ban Palata Road, which leads to several tourist sites, was also left inaccessible by metre-high floodwater.
Sadetchai Suwannachan, mayor of Tambon Umphang Municipality, said staff and rescuers have been mobilised to evacuate villagers in three areas but they are facing difficulties because of the continuing downpours and floods.
Electricity in the district has been shut down for safety.
In Chaiyaphum, floods have ravaged the province, especially in Bamnet Narong district, where one flash flood was 5m deep and brought a hospital and surrounding commercial hub to a standstill.
Khek River in Phitsanulok also overflowed due to the heavy rain and submerged a lower plain in Wang Thong district’s tambon Chainam and Wang Thong on Friday before beginning to recede yesterday.
However, many local houses suffered damage.