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Bangkok residents flee flooding

Bangkok residents are pouring out of parts of the flood-threatened city by bus, plane and train before a forecast weekend deluge.

Thailand's government urged people to take advantage of a special five-day holiday for the evacuation.

The warning applied to only two of Bangkok's 50 districts - Don Muang and Bang Phlat - but many residents elsewhere were leaving with the government acknowledging the entire city could flood in the coming days.

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Patibatra said he expected to soon announce an evacuation warning for Sai Mai district, on the capital's northern outskirts, where waist-high water has turned roads into virtual rivers and swamped petrol stations and homes.

At least one foreign government is advising against all but essential travel to Bangkok, while a spokesman for the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "Flooding is likely to disrupt transport, close tourist attractions and may affect electricity and water supplies."

Thailand's government has for weeks sent conflicting messages about the dangers of the floods - which have killed 373 people nationwide since July and caused billions of dollars in damage.

At times it has warned Bangkok was in imminent danger and at other times declared the city would be safe. But efforts to protect the capital were dealt a major psychological blow on Tuesday, when floodwaters breached barriers around the city's second-largest airport and forced it to close.

Despite that, the vast majority of the city remained dry on Thursday. Thousands of people packed Bangkok's Mo Chit bus terminal on Wednesday, trying to leave town on their own to take advantage of the five-day public holiday that runs from Thursday until Monday in flood-affected areas, including Bangkok.

Some waited for hours on the pavement outside Mo Chit because there was no space inside the terminal, the main departure point for buses to Thailand's north. Large crowds were also reported at the city's main international gateway, Suvarnabhumi airport, which remained open.

As the waters rose in Sai Mai, hundreds of residents clambered aboard packed military trucks with their belongings, desperate to leave. Others got out any way they could - in paddle boats, plastic tubs, inner tubes and rubber rafts. Several men floated down a flooded road in a makeshift boat made of empty oil barrels tied to a rectangular plank.

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