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III MEF team aids with Thailand flood disaster

Date Posted: 2011-10-19

Walls of water are being stopped by tens of thousands of sandbags in central Thailand, the only defense between monsoon flooding and cities, and the III Marine Expeditionary Force from Okinawa is providing assessments on how its troops can assist.

The ten-man Humanitarian Assistance Survey Team from III MEF is now in Bangkok, working with the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and U.S. Pacific Command to formulate a relief plan that will best allow American troops to work side by side with Thai authorities to keep the swirling waters from reaching Bangkok. The Okinawa Marines flew from Futenma Marine Corps Air Station to Bangkok over the weekend, carrying thousands of sandbags to help block the waters, which have already impacted the lives of eight million people across two-thirds of the country. The American jet carrying the U.S. Marines carried bottled water, in addition to the sandbags.

Agricultural land and low-lying villages are now under water and property damage has already soared to nearly $3 billion. Some 200 major highways and roadways are under water or blocked, and railroad lines linking Bangkok to the north are shut down. The main objective for authorities now is to keep the swollen Chao Phraya River from overflowing its banks in Bangkok. “Every second counts,” said one official. The floods have already claimed the lives of 315 people.

Authorities are calling the current flooding the worst in a half century, and weather forecasters and engineers are predicting the worst is yet to come. Cities, towns and villages are under water around the ancient capital city of Ayutthaya, forcing closure of dozens of factories and international businesses. The Thai Labor Ministry saysmore than 260,000 people have lost their jobs and 6,533 businesses have been closed due to the floods. “It’s going to go higher,” said one official. “We need to be prepared.”

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