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Bangkok under water

A Thai man walks in floods under a station of the city's elevated rail system in Bangkok
A Thai man walks in floods under a station of the city's elevated rail system in Bangkok

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CNN's Matt Walsh reports on the flooding throughout Thailand
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BANGKOK, Thailand (Reuters) -- Torrential rain has brought flash flooding to central Bangkok, slowing traffic, delaying school exams and forcing thousands of workers to stay at home.

A combination of rain, high tide and northern floodwaters flowing down the Chao Phraya River into the city saw homes and roads flooded to a depth of up to half a meter (20 inches).

Office workers took off their shoes and rolled up their trousers to pick their way through ankle-deep water in the central business district.

Thai meteorologists reported Bangkok was doused by 80-170 mm (3-7 inches) of rain in the early morning. While not an unusual amount, the combination of factors defeated the drainage system.

"Today is extraordinary as three kinds of water -- northern (flood) water, sea water, and rainwater -- have converged," Deputy Bangkok Governor Sahas Bunditkul told Bangkok radio.

"Unfortunately it rained a lot this morning but we could not divert the water to the river as high tide was at the same time," Sahas said. "We hope the water level will recede soon."

Monsoon rains have lashed most of Thailand since early August and flooding has claimed 122 lives, including 16 ethnic Karen refugees who died last month when flash floods swept through makeshift homes in a camp.

Economists are concerned the floods could impact the economy. Government officials say damage could shave up to one percentage point off forecast 2002 GDP growth of 4.0-4.5 percent.

The flood waters have forced people in most central Thai provinces to travel by boat, turning towns into floating markets.

Eight hours of rain from 0300 on Monday (2000 GMT Sunday) did the same to Bangkok roads, as traffic jams sprawled up to 20 km (12 miles) long.

"I left home for work at six this morning but after having tried various roads to avoid floods and jams for four hours, I am heading home now," a motorist told a traffic radio station.

School's out

Some schools postponed exams and many residents did not even try to go to work. Instead, they spent the day moving furniture and appliances from flooded ground floor rooms to higher floors of their buildings.

Stock losses have also been heavy, with 10,000 chickens reportedly drowned at an agricultural college north of the capital on Saturday, but forecasters said the floods should soon recede.

"We will see less and less rain in the coming days in Bangkok and the central region, although the southern part of the country will enter the monsoon season," Prapansak Buranaprapa, head of Thailand's Meteorological Department, said.

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