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Bangkok Facing Unprecedented Flooding Disaster

Residents drive through a flooded street close to the overflowing Chao Phraya river in Bangkok on Thursday. About 400 people have died from floods in the country since late July.

Residents drive through a flooded street close to the overflowing Chao Phraya river in Bangkok on Thursday. About 400 people have died from floods in the country since late July.

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

It's being called 'the perfect storm': tomorrow, one of Asia's largest cities will experience record flooding at the same time it deals with the highest tides yet from the Gulf of Thailand. Bangkok, home to more than six million registered people and hundreds of thousands more undocumented workers, faces the chance of catastrophe, notes CNN.

Southeast Asia has been inundated for weeks with heavy seasonal rains and powerful typhoons, creating the worst monsoon season in more than 50 years.

Thailand's capital is at sea level and three rivers flow through it. Floodwater rushing south toward the ocean will be met this weekend by seasonal high tides trying to surge inland. There's not many places left for the water to go. Michael Sullivan tells NPR Newscasts

The Chao Praya river—which runs through the heart of Bangkok—is already at a record high and officials worry high tides in the next 48 hours may push it over its banks in earnest. Several tourist attractions around the city have already been affected by the flooding. Water has breached the walls of the popular Grand Palace.

To speed evacuations to higher ground, the Thai government declared a five day holiday for workers. Michael says Bangkok's bus and train stations are jammed while government workers stay to reinforce flood barriers around the capital.

While officials continue to try to reassure frightened people, digital volunteers produced catchy cartoons explaining how the disaster happened, and how to prepare calmly for the crisis. The subtitled vid compares the Bangkok flooding to an invasion of blue whales. They've gotten half a million hits in just a few days.

The Thai economy is taking a hit: Reuters reports the country's slashed its 2011 GDP forecast today from 4.1 to 2.6 percent, reflecting lost production from closed Thai factories and displaced workers.

The economic problem is spreading, because Thailand manufactures items such as computer hard drives and car parts. Toyota is idling factories in North America for one day on Saturday because of the supply interruption, notes Marketwatch. Plants in Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Canada are affected.

Even worse, the flooding has cut deeply into Thailand's rice crop. The world's biggest exporter of rice could lose one quarter of this year's crop, Reuters adds. Other countries may have enough to make up the losses but prices could go up in a region that's already seen inflation on some food prices.

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