Thousands to be hit by Kaeng Krachan overspill

PHETCHABURI, Thailand (The Nation/ANN) - Flooding inevitable as discharge sweeps across areas along Phetchaburi river.

Communities Phetchaburi’s Muang district are expected to be flooded for about two weeks after run-off from the overwhelmed Kaeng Krachan Dam hit the area last night.The dam was discharging between 200 and 250 cubic metres of water per second, as of press time yesterday. The Phetchaburi River, which runs into the Muang district at the heart of Phetchaburi, can hold about 150 cubic metres of water per second. 

“Although we must discharge water from the dam, we are trying to reduce the volume that will go into the river by diverting some 55 cubic metres of runoff to a canal and irrigation systems,” Royal Irrigation Department’s director-general Thongplew Kongjun said. Regardless of their efforts, it would be inevitable that thousands of people in communities in low-lying zones along the Phetchaburi River would face flooding, he said. 
He estimated the floodwater level would be about 50 centimetres. Water volume in the Kaeng Krachan National Park, in the upper part of Phetchaburi province, has already exceeded its holding capacity. Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha is expected to inspect water discharge at the dam today. 

“Natural disasters are unavoidable but the government will try to minimise adverse impacts,” he said. Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Grisada Boonrach yesterday said that good preparations had been made to minimise the impact on people living in Phetchaburi’s town. 
“We have even diverted some water into empty farmland along the way. By doing this, the runoff will be reduced. It will also be slower for the runoff to reach the town, giving residents there enough time to move their belongings,” he said. 

Prayut emphasised that people living downstream must move their belongings to higher ground and evacuate if floodwaters continued to rise. 
The weather bureau has forecast increased rainfall and heavier downpours in various parts of Thailand until tomorrow. 
Landslides and flood warnings were issued for 35 provinces. 

Apart from Phetchaburi, Chiang Rai, Phayao, Nan, Tak, Kamphaeng Phet, Sukhothai, Phitsanulok, Phichit, Phetchabun, Nong Khai, Bueng Kan, Udon Thani, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, Ratchaburi, Suphan Buri, Kanchanaburi, Uthai Thani, Chainat, Nakhon Sawan, Nakhon Nayok, Prachin Buri, Sa Kaew, Chon Buri, Rayong, Chanthaburi, Trat, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, Surat Thani, Ranong, Phang Nga and Phuket are also at risk. 

Grisada said if it rained, the water volume going to the Phetchaburi River might be up to 300 cubic metres per second. “That means Phetchaburi town may succumb to floods. [However] with current preparations, flooding should not be as widespread as last year,” he said. The Royal Irrigation Department has been closely monitoring water levels at large and medium-size reservoirs across the country. 

As of yesterday, water volume at two large dams – Nam Oun in Sakhon Nakhon province and Kaeng Krachan in Phetchaburi – exceeded their capacity. About 21 medium-size dams were also overwhelmed, most of them in the Northeast. Kanchanaburi Governor Jirakiat Bhumisawasdi yesterday warned people downstream of three local dams – the Srinakharin, Vajiralongkorn and Mae Klong – to be aware of the overflowing river. 

The Srinakharin Dam has now discharged 20 million cubic metres of water, the Vajiralongkorn Dam 43 million cubic metres of water, and the Mae Klong Dam 60 million cubic metres of water. “We have noticed that water levels in downstream zones has risen by between 30 and 40 centimetres,” Jirakiat said. He said local authorities are preparing flood relief and rescue operations.  A landslide already hit Mae Hong Son province yesterday morning, with a local road blocked by large rocks. Sop Moei district chief Pha-ob Binsa-ard said local officials were trying to clear the blockage with heavy machinery.

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