Bangkok's main river hit a new high Friday, as residents who did not take advantage of a 5-day holiday to flee the capital waited anxiously for a high tide.
Bangkok's Chinatown flooded Friday, CNN reports, and water swamped the Grand Palace — situated about 100 yards from the Chao Phraya, which according to the Irish Times broke a record by swelling to 8.1 feet above the average sea level, just 13 inches below the main barriers.
An expected high tide due Saturday afternoon, combined with the flow of run-off water from inundated central plains, could cause wider flooding, officials have been warning all week.
(GlobalPost reports: Flood-hit Bangkok faces "perfect storm" as high tide approaches (VIDEO)
While the center of Bangkok remained mostly dry late Friday, according to CNN, residents who remained in their homes "despite government pleas to get out" waited anxiously to see if the high tide would breach defenses along the Chao Phraya River and its canals.
While Bangkok lies barely above sea level, the central city has been largely spared the flooding that has inundated other parts of Thailand since July and killed more than 370 people, according to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.
However, the combination of heavy monsoon rains and runoff the equivalent of 480,000 Olympic-sized pools flowing south to the sea through Bangkok as high tide pushes the water in the opposite direction, now threatens the capital.
The high tide Saturday, the Red Cross reportedly said, will put "extreme pressure" on Bangkok's elaborate system of dikes and other flood defenses.
From GlobalPost's Patrick Winn: Bangkok is sinking (interactive map)
The main business Bangkok districts of Silom and lower Sukhumvit reportedly remain unaffected, with sandbag barriers protecting offices and shops.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, meantime, called for "fresh ideas" to stem the country’s worst floodin 50 years, Bloomberg reports.
"The crisis we’re facing today is the most critical natural disaster that ever happened in Thai history,” she reportedly said Friday, adding that she'd welcome suggestions from the opposition Democrat party. “I’d like to ask for cooperation from everyone that we don’t have political parties, nor political games. We must not be divided."
Yingluck on Friday ordered work crews to cut channels in roadways to allow faster water drainage, CNN cites the state-run MCOT news agency as reporting.
However, the plan was rejected late in the day in favor of dredging canals and using pumps, the Bangkok Post reports. The post is running a detailed map of the capital with flood-affected areas marked.