BANGKOK (AP) — Authorities sandbagged low-lying areas in the Thai capital and checked pumping stations Thursday along the Chao Phraya River in preparation for possible flooding as dams upstream, swollen by heavy rains, were forced to release water as a precaution.
Flooding in the northern and central regions has already displaced thousands. Seven people have died and one woman is missing.
Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang said that with heavy rains still in the forecast, both the Chao Phraya Dam, 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Bangkok, and the Pasak Jolasid Dam, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of the capital, have been forced to release water, raising the possibility of flooding in areas of the city that are often inundated during the monsoon season.
Bangkok has been spared so far, but memories of the 2011 floods that submerged parts of the capital still loom large for many residents. At that time, a combination of a strong monsoon season and several tropical storms led to the disastrous flooding.
Since then, more levees and water retention areas have been constructed and authorities have sought to allay fears.
The floods have affected 227,470 households in 31 provinces — one province and 30,000 households more than Wednesday, according to Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigations.
In Sukhothai province, a team of paraglider enthusiasts has been doing what it can to help out areas cut off by the waters, flying sorties over villages and dropping aid packages to the stranded residents.
Using powered paragliders, also known as paramotors, the 15-member group has been dropping packages of water, instant noodles, rice and other dried foods to villagers to help them make it through until the floods recede.
On Wednesday they dropped 200 parcels, some also containing basic medicines and sanitary items.
“We can arrive in the area quite fast,” volunteer Wichai Tiyasan told The Associated Press. “We can check out coordinates, leading rescue boats to locations that need help. We can use paragliders to drop supplies fast as we can reach affected areas well before others.”
The group started its operations on Saturday after Tropical Storm Dianmu combined with annual monsoon rains to inundate the area.
As waters receded, the group took a break Thursday after five days of straight work, and planned to take to the skies again Friday to help authorities survey the area.
“We are proud that we can help those in need. We are happy to see their smiles when they receive supplies,” said volunteer Wachirachan Tangkasemwiboon. “Do we face any obstacles? Yes … but if it happens when we are trying to help others, it is fine, at least we can say we have done our best.”
Associated Press writers Chalida Ekvittayavechnukul and Tassanee Vejpongsa contributed to this report.