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Bangkok flood protection 'failing'

Efforts to block floodwaters from entering Bangkok are failing, Thailand's prime minister has said.

Yingluck Shinawatra said authorities will instead risk potential overflow with a controlled release of water through the capital's canals.

She told reporters that every means to slow the water from entering Bangkok had been tried, so at least some must be allowed to drain through the city.

Authorities had been making desperate attempts to keep floodgates closed and boost barriers along waterways carrying a deluge of water downstream from the north. The evident result was massive flooding inundating homes and factories in areas north of the city.

"We must allow the water to flow through. Very little has been driven to the sea," Ms Shinawatra said.

Ms Shinawatra's government has come under sharp criticism for a confusing and inadequate response to the flooding, with began in August with heavy rains in northern Thailand.

The death toll has risen to 320, mostly from drowning, with nearly nine million people affected and 28 of the country's 77 provinces still inundated. Initial estimates of the economic cost of destroyed shops, paralysed factories and swamped farmland are nearly £2 billion.

Ms Shinawatra said the amount of water still flowing down from the north was many times that which was flowing out to the sea.

"There's no way to drain out water because we are blocking it," she said. "Sometimes blocking the water caused the barriers to deteriorate, because we didn't design them to act as dams. Today we have exhausted every resource we have to slow down the water, be they damming or water retention areas."

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Patibatra said the city had opened water gates at every spot, including canals in inner Bangkok, to quickly push the run-off to the sea. Bangkok has so far has escaped serious flooding, thanks to dykes, underground tunnels and other defences, though floodwaters have been seeping into some northern neighbourhoods.

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