» 11/16/2011 13:56 THAILAND Flood situation improving in Bangkok as Caritas brings aid to victims by Weena Kowitwanij Water levels continue to drop. In “two weeks”, main streets and communication links should be clean. Catholic Church shares aid with Buddhist communities affected by floods. PM Shinawatra meets UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – The situation in the Thai capital of Bangkok is slowly improving after weeks of emergency, battered along with many provinces by what experts have dubbed the “worst floods in 50 years”. Water levels have begun to recede and the main streets of the city should be cleaned up in two weeks. Through Caritas and other charities, the Catholic Church is helping flood victims. Since July 564 people have died as a result of the flooding and almost 10 million people in 20 provinces are still affected. About 5.6 billion baht (US$ 180 million) have been allocated for the rehabilitation of places of worship and buildings of historic and artistic value. The government will also spend billions in the rehabilitation of roads, communications links and manufacturing plants.
East of the capital, near the Industrial estates in Bangchan and Lardkrabang, seven kilometres from Suvarnabhume International Airport, things are slowly improving. However, the situation remains critical in the western part of the city because releasing the flood through the Chao Phraya River into the sea is proving difficult. The water level will remain high, an expert said, and it will take two more weeks for the water to reach the sea. Meanwhile, groups of residents have been hired by the city at 300 baht a day to remove rubbish and weed that are obstructing the water flow.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra met United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today. “We hope the disastrous flood will not happen again as we have planned both short term and long term to protect [against] flood crisis in the future,” she told him.
Ban Ki-moon thanked Thailand, a key player for the United Nations in the Asia-Pacific region, and a crucial supporter for the promotion of stability, development and human rights. He expressed his conviction that “Thailand would overcome flood crisis”.
Later today, Thai PM Shinawatra will meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; together the two women will visit a relief centre for flood victims.
Tomorrow, Secretary Clinton, PM Shinawatra and Ban Ki-moon will fly to Indonesia for the 19th ASEAN summit in Bali.
On behalf of the Thai Bishops’ Conference, the head of the Catholic Commission for Human Development visited the Diocese of Nakhon Sawan to bring aid to flood victims. The local bishop, Mgr Joseph Pibul Wisitnontachai, led the Caritas delegation, meeting among others Monk Phra Kru Nikrote Dhammawudhi, rector of the Sai Tai Buddhist Temple.
Catholics shared aid with local Buddhists, including at least 1,500 families who have had to struggle every day for the past two months against the devastation caused by the floods.
Fr Rocco Pairat Sriprasert, secretary general of Caritas Thailand, brought the comfort of the Church to flood victims, whose life, he hopes, will get back to normal as soon as possible.
In an appeal, he asked for seeds and fertiliser to help for farmers get back to working the land. Likewise, he called for long-term programmes to prevent similar disasters in the future.