Authorities in flood-ravaged Bangkok warned residents Wednesday about the severe risk of electrocution as storm waters continue to keep power lines submerged in the capital city and surrounding areas.
The death toll, already topping 400, could spike sharply as floodwaters continue to hit more densely populated areas in Thailand, leaving more people at a greater risk for electrocution, sources said.
The main reported cause of death since flooding began in July has been drowning, but dozens of people have died from electrocution around the capital in the past few days, according to Thai authorities.
“In the past 10 days, deaths from electrocution rose from just nine to 36 and about 80 percent of those were in the provinces surrounding Bangkok,” said Porntep Siriwanarangsun, a senior public health ministry official, to AFP news agency.
The areas most at risk are the hard-hit slums north of the city center and the provinces surrounding Bangkok, officials said. Thai authorities, however, have not ordered the main supply of power to be shut off.
Officials said recent electrocutions occurred when residents were unplugging appliances as they checked on damaged homes, attempting to charge cell phones and powering water pumps in an attempt to save their property.
"I'm sure many cases are not reported,” Porntep told AFP. “If this issue is not addressed it will be a major cause of death."
The warning comes as Thailand faces a looming threat of disease as trash remains uncollected and piled up in the waterlogged country.
Raw sewage, animal carcasses and rotten food have mixed with floodwaters in populated areas, the AP reported.
The scope of the disaster is massive. Officials estimated there is 1.5 million tons of uncollected trash in the country.
"We all know the risk is there," said Dr. Maureen Birmingham, World Health Organization country representative in Thailand, to AP. "People get water in their mouths that's contaminated with feces, and all the diseases that can ensue from that - that's probably the biggest concern."
The flooding, which began in July, is blamed for more than 400 deaths, displacing more than 100,000 people and destroying millions of acres of farm land.