Thai Floods Threaten Public and Private Research

Flood waters creeping toward Thailand's biggest research park have forced the evacuation of dozens of public and private labs. Emergency personnel are piling sandbags around facilities in hopes of keeping them dry during the expected crest over the weekend.

The Thailand Science Park, 30 kilometers north of Bangkok, is home to 2700 employees working in four national research institutes under the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) as well as the labs of 60 private companies. The Asian Institute of Technology and a campus of Thammasat University are nearby and also threatened by the flooding.

Caught today while he was "very busy trying to fight the flood," NSTDA Executive Vice President Narong Sirilertworakul said the science park was "still dry, but water is coming." It was not yet clear if the campus would be safe behind hastily constructed floodwalls and sandbags. (Pictures and situation updates can be found on the park's Facebook page.) Sirilertworakul said no one was in the park except for essential personnel working to protect the infrastructure. "At the moment, everything is under control," he said.

On Wednesday, park authorities announced the campus would close from 13 to 16 October. Tenants were asked to move valuable assets "to high and safe locations," turn off utilities, unplug electric appliances, and instruct employees to stay home at least until next Monday.

The flooding, the worst in 50 years, has already claimed more than 280 lives and, according to a Businessweek report, caused over $5.1 billion in damage, disrupted operations at 930 factories, and will shave at least 1% off the country's annual GDP. The high waters won't reach Bangkok until next week.