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Saturday 17 March 2018

Bangkok prisons emptied as city prepares for a month under water

Ian MacKinnon in Bangkok

THE notorious "Bangkok Hilton" jail in Thailand's capital was emptied of its most dangerous inmates yesterday as the country's embattled prime minister warned that the city's flooding crisis could last for a month.

Some 600 of the most serious offenders were moved from Bang Kwang Central Prison on the banks of the Chao Phraya river because of flooding concerns.

The jail, which houses many foreign inmates, is known for its harsh conditions.

Inmates are forced to wear leg irons for the first three months, while the death row prisoners have them welded on permanently.

Stretches of seven major roads through the north of Bangkok were forced to close because they were flooded, after the high tide early yesterday caused the Chao Phraya to burst its banks.

Four thousand people, who had already fled flooded homes to shelter in a tent city on the concourse of Bangkok's old international airport at Don Muang, were moved elsewhere when water seeped into the compound.

At every turn across Bangkok, a low-lying city of 12 million, people were preparing for the worst or trying to cope with the damage inflicted by waist-deep filthy water that has flooded streets, homes and businesses.

Bottled drinking water is running short and supermarkets have begun rationing essentials such as eggs, rice and even lavatory paper.

Most have been left with rows of bare shelves from waves of panic buying and difficulties in restocking.

But worse may yet be to come.

Yingluck Shinawatra, the prime minister, said there was only a 50-50 chance that Bangkok would escape extensive flooding that could see some areas submerged in up to five feet of water.

She is under intense pressure over her handling of the crisis that, so far, has left 373 people dead, partly because of the contradictory signals coming from her administration and gaffes, including her visit to flood victims wearing a pair of €230 Burberry wellington boots.

Failure of any of the miles of dykes lining the system of canals and two rivers carrying flood waters to the sea could lead to catastrophe, the prime minister warned.

"Initially the floods in Bangkok will last from two weeks to a month," she said. "But I am 50pc confident that the inner zone of Bangkok will not be completely flooded." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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