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Bangkok river reaches record high

The main river coursing through Thailand's capital has swelled to record highs, briefly flooding riverside buildings and an ornate royal complex amid fears that flood defences could break and swamp the heart of Bangkok.

Ankle-high water from the Chao Phraya river spilled through one sandbagged entrance to the city's Grand Palace, which once housed the kingdom's monarchy. The army was pumping out the water, and tourists were still entering the compound.

The river has filled roads outside the palace gates for days, but the water has receded with the tides, leaving streets dry again.

But the higher-than-normal tides in the Gulf of Thailand, expected to peak on Saturday, are obstructing the flood run-off from the north, and there are fears that the overflows could swamp parts of central Bangkok. The government is also worried major barriers and dikes could break.

Friday's morning high tide passed without a major breach, but the waters briefly touched riverside areas closer to the city's central businesses districts of Silom and Sathorn.

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said: "It is clear that although the high tides haven't reached 2.5 metres, it was high enough to prolong the suffering of those living outside of the flood walls and to threaten those living behind deteriorating walls.".

The flood walls protecting much of the inner city are 2.5 metres high, and Saturday's high tide is expected to reach 2.6 metres.

Seven of Bangkok's 50 districts - all in the northern outskirts - are heavily flooded, and residents have fled aboard bamboo rafts and army trucks, and by wading in waist-deep water. Another eight districts have seen less serious flooding.

Fresh flooding was reported in the city's south-east when a canal overflowed in the outer parts of Sukhumvit Road.

The floods, the heaviest in Thailand in more than half a century, have drenched a third of the country's provinces, killed close to 400 people and displaced more than 110,000 others. The water has crept from the central plains south toward the Gulf of Thailand, but Bangkok is in the way. It is surrounded by pools of water flowing around and through the city via a complex network of canals and rivers.

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