Floods Encircle Thai Industrial Park; Govt Says No 2011 Repeat

By Amy Sawitta Lefevre 27 September 2013

BANGKOK — Floodwater encircled an industrial estate to the northeast of Bangkok on Thursday, adding to fears Thailand could see a repeat of the devastation caused by floods in 2011, but the estate’s director said water would not enter the complex.

More than 800 people died in flooding around the country that year and industry was badly disrupted, cutting annual economic growth to just 0.1 percent. Since Thailand is a big supplier of electronic parts, hard disk drives and car parts, international supply lines were disrupted, too.

The government has insisted there will be no repetition, partly because rain has been less heavy this time but also because dams are nowhere near as full as they were then.

“Water levels in our dams are much lower. Overall we’re dealing with 30 percent of the amount of water we had to manage in 2011,” Supot Tovichakchaikul, secretary-general of the National Policy and Management of Water and Flood, told Reuters.

Water levels in the river and canals in the capital were on average at 1.85 meters (6 ft) but the city’s flood barriers could contain water levels of up to 2.70 meters (9 ft), he said.

The 304 Industrial Park in Prachin Buri province, 135 km (84 miles) northeast of Bangkok, has 110 factories, many of them Japanese-owned.

Media said water had entered the park after the Prachin Buri River, 8 km (5 miles) away, overflowed on Wednesday after heavy rain, but a senior official denied that.

“It has affected villagers living near the riverbank but there has been no impact on our industrial park. At our highest point, we are 22 meters above sea level,” Poolsak Sutanthavibul, executive vice president of 304 Industrial Park, told Reuters.

“Some local media outlets used outdated photographs of roads near the estate that were flooded two days ago but that water has been pumped out. The headlines have affected the confidence of some companies with a presence here,” he said.

The industrial estate’s website says it is in a safe zone that provides “natural shelter from flash floods.”

Companies with operations there include Toshiba Semiconductor (Thailand) Co. Ltd, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (Thailand) Ltd, Canon (Thailand) Co. Ltd and Berli Jucker Public Co. Ltd.

Berli Jucker, a trading firm controlled by Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, said its tissue paper factory in the estate was running as normal.

“The worst case scenario is that roads will be flooded, which could affect the supply of raw material to our factory and our distribution,” said Metinee Issrachinda, assistant vice president for investor relations.

In August, Toshiba announced plans to move its manufacturing base to 304 Industrial Park, to help rebuild confidence among customers after its factories in the central province of Ayutthaya were hit by the 2011 floods.

More than a million people living in 27 of Thailand’s 77 provinces have been affected by the floods this year and nine people have died.

In neighboring Laos, the United Nations estimates at least 64,000 people in four southern provinces have been affected by heavy flooding. Three people have died.

The World Vision aid group says it is responding to the flood crisis by distributing clean water, canned fish and rice.

“Water is above shoulder level in one district and some communities have been under water for eight days. We’re concerned about diarrhea and malnutrition,” Amelia Merrick, World Vision’s national director for Laos, told Reuters.

In Cambodia, heavy monsoon rain had led to the deaths of 20 people and destroyed 25,000 hectares (61,750 acres) of rice paddies, according to the National Disaster Management Committee.

Additional reporting by Kochakorn Boonlai and Khettiya Jittapong in Bangkok and Prak Chan Thul in Phnom Penh.