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Thailand floods: Some residents defy warnings and stay to help evacuees

Despite the various evacuation warnings that Thailand floods are serious, Bangkok citizens are staying in the inundated areas and doing what they can to help those who need it.

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In a corner of the upstairs departure terminal at Bangkok’s now-closed Don Muang airport, Chutimas Suksai and six friends are taping empty water bottles together to create an improvised raft.

Ms. Chutimas, a student from Thammasat University, on the other side of the city, has spent most of the past two weeks volunteering her time to help some of the hundreds of thousands of Thais affected by three months of rain and flooding, which has killed more than 360 people, with an estimated 1 million of Bangkok's estimated 12 million residents already evacuated.

When Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced that the capital should brace for four to six weeks of flooding, citizens who stayed in Bangkok, such as Chutimas and her friends, started looking for ways to help people ride out what could be a long-lasting deluge.

“It seems some of Bangkok will be flooded for a long time, so we will give these rafts to people in Rangsit [a flooded suburb to the north of the airport], so they can float food and water to their homes,” she says.

Despite the various evacuation warnings coming from the national government and the Bangkok city administration, many people – especially those with upstairs rooms and access to boats or big-wheel trucks – are staying in the inundated areas and doing what they can to help those who need assistance.

“My house is OK, so I come here [to Don Muang] to help out those who have suffered,” explains Ramluek Nitiwatanvicharan, who hails from the Chatuchak area near Bangkok’s famous flea-market, which will not open this weekend for the first time in a year.

'Slow-moving tsunami'

Outside, the usually traffic-thronged highway and numerous cars are under 5 feet of water, and thousands of other vehicles are parked on the ascending toll way above the floodwaters.

The Bangkok flooding has been described as a “slow-moving tsunami,” evoking comparison to the 2004 disaster that hit southern Thai beach resorts.

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