Thailand’s prime minister says floodwaters will start to recede soon, as tens of thousands of people pour out of Bangkok to escape the saturated city.
Yingluck Shinawatra said in her weekly media address Saturday the waters have peaked and will begin to recede next week.
Meanwhile, Bangkok residents are flocking to airports as well as train and bus stations, while others are trying to drive their way out, taking advantage of a government-issued five-day holiday. Many headed south to areas of higher elevation.
The Pentagon says Thailand had asked a U.S. destroyer to extend its stay at a main port to allow two U.S. helicopters to survey the deadly flood waters.
Ankle-high water seeping from the banks of the Chao Phraya River has surrounded the city’s iconic Grand Palace.
Officials are also starting to measure the economic hit.
The Bank of Thailand Friday cut its projections for the country’s economic growth almost in half, slashing it from 4.1 percent to just 2.6 percent. The central bank said the flooding is affecting both the country’s agricultural and industrial interests.
The government says the flooding has already swamped nearly 10,000 factories in the country, leaving 660,000 workers in danger of losing their jobs. One financial services firm, Moody’s Investors Service, says the damage from the disaster could total $6.6 billion, the equivalent of 2 percent of the national economy.
Thai officials blame the country’s worst flooding in half a century for 377 deaths.
Bangkok residents have been doing what they can to fight the floodwaters, piling sandbags outside their homes and businesses. They have also stocked up on supplies. Many supermarket shelves are empty while some stores are rationing bottled water and other essentials.
Meanwhile, residents in many hard-hit provinces north of Bangkok have been wading through waist-deep flooded streets in makeshift boats.
The disaster has forced the closure of Bangkok’s second-largest airport, the Don Muang airport, which mainly handles domestic flights.