Two Bangkok Industrial Parks Hold Out Against Flood
Author: Ploy Ten Kate
A flooded Honda factory is seen from a helicopter in Ayutthaya province, November 14, 2011.
Photo: Damir Sagolj
Floodwater continued to surround two industrial estates in the east of Bangkok on Tuesday but defences were holding up, while Thailand's industry minister said the bulk of factories in flood-hit zones north of the capital could be back at work soon.
Seri Supharatid, director of Rangsit University's Center on Climate Change and Disaster, said the authorities had succeeded in stabilizing the water level at Bang Chan and Lat Krabang industrial estates in Bangkok and less water was now running down from provinces to its north.
"What we're seeing now is that the water level has become more stable. So, even though we can't say 100 percent, risks are clearly going down," Seri told Reuters.
"If the estates manage to hold for seven more days, with water continuing to recede, there's a good chance that they may be safe."
The flooding in Thailand has claimed 562 lives since late July and swamped 891 factories in seven industrial estates north of the capital, disrupting the supply chains of many international companies, including Toyota Motor Corp, Sony Corp and Lenovo Group Ltd.
Although water is now receding in central provinces and parts of northern Bangkok that were flooded, the situation remains serious to the east and west of the capital.
Flooding hit Samut Sakhon province to the west of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand about four days ago and is taking longer than expected to flow into the sea, Reuters reporters said.
However, in central Ayutthaya province, clean-up work is under way at Rojana Industrial Park Pcl, Hi-Tech, Bang Pa-In and Factory Land, which were overwhelmed by floods from the beginning of October. Some factories are already back at work.
Industry Minister Wannarat Channukul said up to 80 percent of manufacturing plants in the five industrial parks in Ayutthaya could probably be up and running again next month.
"We're quite confident that most factories will be able to start producing again in December," Wannarat told reporters.
Bangchak Petroleum Pcl said it had already restarted its biodiesel plant in Bang Pa-In, although tech firms that need a cleaner environment may need as long as six months to resume operations, an industry group said.
BACK TO WORK
Japan's Nissan Motor Co, which shut its factory in Samut Prakan province on October 14, said on its website it had begun limited production at its plant from Monday.
Mazda Motor Corp also restarted production of passenger cars at its factory jointly operated with Ford Motor Co on Monday, initially with one shift, with the aim of returning to a full two shifts on November 21.
Honda Motor Co resumed production of some models of motorcycles and power products at its Thai Honda Manufacturing Co Ltd on the Lat Krabang estate on Monday as parts became available again. There has been no flood damage to the plant.
However, Honda's car production base on the Rojana park, suspended since October 4, remains closed.
Rojana told the stock exchange it had been draining water from its estate on November 11 and expected to finish the process by the beginning of December, when cleaning-up and repair work could start.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said last week about 120 billion baht ($3.9 billion) had been set aside for the flood recovery effort, a figure that rises to 130 billion baht when local government funds are added.
In the longer term, the government plans to overhaul Thailand's water management systems to try to prevent another disaster of this magnitude, seen as vital to maintain its position as a regional manufacturing hub for global firms.
Nobuyuki Murahashi, president of Mitsubishi Motors Corp's Thai unit, said it had no plans to scale back its investment in Thailand.
It is going ahead with a 20 billion baht project to build an environmentally friendly "eco car" in Thailand and is on track for production to begin in March 2012.
(Editing by Alan Raybould)