Alarm as Bangkok awaits deluge

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Fear and confusion is gripping Bangkok as residents grapple with mixed messages over whether Thailand’s worst floods in decades would overwhelm the capital’s defences.

The government sought to reassure residents that the city would be spared from the deluge that has submerged entire towns across the country’s central plains, devastated rice crops and closed hundreds of factories.

Officials said much of Bangkok sat behind a sturdy flood wall that had been re-enforced in recent days.

Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra said: “I insist that the floods will only affect outer Bangkok and will not be widespread in other areas.”

She said her government would adjust its methods of informing the public and that official information would only be released by the director of the Flood Relief Centre.

Authorities had for days been warning that the flooding had reached crisis levels and that waters rushing from the north could combine with rains and high tides in the next few days to flood the capital.

Some had said the rush of water would be so strong that authorities would be left with little choice but to watch the city drown.

But the message has not always been clear, with some agencies, departments and officials contradicting others, sometimes in the same news conference.

Erroneous reports on Thursday said flood waters had broken through one key flood gate, leading one government minister to order residents in the area to move out urgently.

The government later apologised for the “misinformation”, saying the order had been reversed.

The conflicting information has left many residents of the city scratching their heads and wondering whether their neighbourhood was truly at risk – and if so how best to prepare.

Some 8.2 million people in 61 out of Thailand’s 77 provinces have been affected by the flooding, which has killed at least 283 people since late July.