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Bangkok barriers hold back tides

Defenses shielding the center of Thailand's capital from the nation's worst floods in nearly 60 years mostly held at critical peak tides Saturday, as the waters began to recede after killing almost 400 people. But the threat to central Bangkok was not over, the prime minister said, and the city's northern districts remained submerged along with much of the countryside.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra urged citizens to let the crisis run its course as the floodwaters slowly drain to the sea, with Bangkok lying in their path. The floods that have besieged central Thailand for weeks submerged entire towns across the country's heartland and shuttered hundreds of factories over the last two months.

"We have the good news that the situation in the central region has improved as runoff water gradually decreased," she said. "I thank people and urge them to be more patient in case this weekend is significant because of the high tide."

Bangkok residents watched the city's dikes and sandbag barriers warily as the high tide pushing up the Chao Phraya River from the Gulf of Thailand peaked Saturday morning. It had been described as the greatest test of the capital's flood defenses since the northern deluge first approached Bangkok more than three weeks ago.

While some water doused streets and shops along the river, the tides fell short of forecast highs and there was no major breach. Higher than usual tides will continue through Monday.

City official Adisak Kantee said the city's concrete barriers "are efficiently protecting Bangkok from deluge," though he said smaller, private dikes might yet fail.

"The situation is so far under control," he said.

While downtown Bangkok streets were bone-dry and bustling, areas along the city's outskirts saw flooding spread. Seven of Bangkok's 50 districts -- all in the northern and western outskirts -- are heavily inundated. Eight other districts have seen less serious flooding.