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Bangkok flood barriers hold firm

Barriers protecting Bangkok from Thailand's worst floods in half a century are holding firm as the government said some of the floodwater north of the capital has begun receding.

That fuelled hopes that Bangkok, a city of nine million, could escape unharmed.

But outside the capital, thousands of people remain displaced and hungry residents are struggling to survive in half-submerged towns.

The military has rescued terrified civilians from the rooftops of flooded buildings in the swamped city of Ayutthaya, one of the country's hardest-hit.

Bangkok has averted calamity so far thanks to a complex system of flood walls, canals, dikes and underground tunnels that are helping divert vast pools of run-off water south into the Gulf of Thailand.

But if any of the defences fail, floodwaters could sweep through the tense city.

Ronnarong Wong-Ngern, a construction worker in north-western Bangkok, said residents still worry that things could go wrong. "I can't sleep at night," said Ronnarong, 38.

Seasonal rains that drench Southeast Asia annually have been extraordinarily severe this year, killing hundreds of people across the region.

Thailand has been hard hit. Nearly 300 people have died in the country so far, while more than 200 major highways and roads have been shut, along with the main rail lines to the north.

The government says property damage and losses nationwide could total three billion dollars (£1.9 billion) or more. The most affected provinces are just north of Bangkok, including Ayutthaya, a former capital which is home to ancient and treasured stone temples.

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