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Villagers with belongings wade through a flood street during an evacuation in Ayutthaya province, central Thailand on Oct. 9, 2011. Thailand's prime minister warned that rising flood waters, which have wreaked havoc across the nation, are now threatening the capital, Bangkok. (Apichart Weerawong/AP/Apichart Weerawong/AP)
Villagers with belongings wade through a flood street during an evacuation in Ayutthaya province, central Thailand on Oct. 9, 2011. Thailand's prime minister warned that rising flood waters, which have wreaked havoc across the nation, are now threatening the capital, Bangkok. (Apichart Weerawong/AP/Apichart Weerawong/AP)

Bangkok preparing to evacuate as Thai flooding intensifies Add to ...

Nearly 200 factories, including one run by Japanese car maker Honda, closed in the central Thai province of Ayutthaya because of flooding, which could threaten Bangkok this week, officials said on Sunday.

About 261 people have died since late July in flood-related incidents, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said. Some 2.3 million people have been affected in the worst flooding to hit parts of Thailand in 50 years, mainly in the centre, north and northeast.

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The Rojana estate in Ayutthaya province was flooded after a wall of sandbags failed to hold back water overnight.

“All 198 factories at Rojana have to be closed because the water is about 5.1 metres high,” Industry Minister Wannarat Channukul told Reuters.

A Honda spokeswoman said it had moved about 3,000 assembled cars from the estate to other areas. Hana Microelectronics also had to close its plant in Ayutthaya.

On Thursday the Center for Economic and Business Forecasting, part of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, cut its forecast for gross domestic product growth this year to 3.6 per cent from 4.4 per cent because of the floods.

It put the impact of the flooding at between 1.0 and 1.3 percentage points of GDP and said its new growth forecast would have been lower but for recent strength in exports.

The commerce ministry said on Friday it had slashed its forecast for the main rice crop, which farmers are just starting to bring in, to 21 million tonnes from 25 million because of the flooding.

Thailand is the world’s biggest rice exporter. The crop damage will add to the pressure on export prices, already being forced up by the high buying price set under a government intervention scheme aimed at helping poor farmers.

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said in a statement the authorities were preparing an evacuation plan to move people from affected areas if floods hit the capital, much of which is just two metres above sea level.

Some riverside areas have already suffered minor flooding, but the level of the Chao Phraya River could rise sharply from Oct. 15-18 when a large amount of water will reach the area from the north, where dams are close to overflowing, at a time of high sea tides.

The government was trying to accelerate the drainage of water from the Chao Phraya into the sea before the high tide.

Other Southeast Asian countries have suffered serious flooding in recent weeks because of heavy monsoon rains combined with tropical storms.

The death toll from two strong typhoons that cut across the north of the Philippines’ main island and left behind widespread flooding had risen to 101 as of Sunday, the national disaster agency said.

At least 167 people had died in Cambodia by late last week and 15 in Vietnam.

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