Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Rising floods shut Bangkok airport

Motorists make their way on a flooded street in Bangkok, Thailand (AP)

Thailand's floods crisis deepened after water began pouring into Bangkok's second airport, closing it.

Don Muang airport is used primarily for domestic flights but the news was sure to further erode the credibility of a government that has repeatedly sent mixed signals about its ability to defend an increasingly anxious capital from the nation's worst floods in nearly 60 years.

Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, the country's main international gateway, has yet to be affected by flooding and flights there were operating normally. Most of the city has been spared inundation so far.

The scene at Don Muang was chaotic as throngs of confused passengers struggled to leave or pulled up to the departure hall with luggage, unaware their flights had been cancelled.

With parts of the main road heading to central Bangkok flooded knee-deep, taxis were few. Some travellers waited hours for a ride as airlines struggled to arrange special buses.

Kantpat Mangalasiri, the airport's director, said Don Muang's runways would be closed until November 1 to ensure safe aircraft operations.

Don Muang has come to symbolise the gravity of Thailand's catastrophic floods, which have swamped a third of the country's provinces and killed 366 people over three months. The airport complex houses the government's emergency Flood Relief Operations Centre, and one of its terminals is home to about 4,000 people who have fled waterlogged homes.

Science and technology minister Plodprasop Suraswadi said the airport could only support 1,500 displaced people, and thousands who sought refuge there would have to be moved to other shelters because "we are concerned about their well-being."

Last week, the Thai air force moved about 20 planes from Don Muang, which is also a military base, as a precaution as waters approached the capital.

Don Muang is among seven of the capital's 50 districts that the government has declared at risk. Those zones, located in the north and north-west, are all experiencing some flooding.

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