Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) — Thais waded through flooded streets Thursday, their belongings and children perched on their shoulders, as relentless floodwaters inched toward Bangkok.
In some residential areas, scattered rooftops peeked through muddy waters.
In others, floodwaters gushed into homes, forcing residents to gingerly climb out of apartments through windows.
It’s the worst flood to hit the country in half a century. By Thursday, the death toll had risen to 320, with nearly 9 others million affected, authorities said.
Bangkok’s Gov. Sukhumbhand Paribatra ordered authorities to open the city’s floodgates to help drain water into the sea, saying the water passing through canals in the city will be under control.
The governor’s move, which means draining out water through canals in the inner parts of the city, might lead to flooding if there are leakages, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said on its website.
“The situation is very uncertain as people are rushing to their homes to protect their belongings,” said Natasha Cheung, who works in northern Bangkok for the Christian aid organization World Vision.
Flooding started two months ago, and the number of affected areas has grown as more rains has lashed the region.
Officials predicted that water will enter northern Bangkok Friday.
Sukhumbhand said the situation in Bangkok is not critical, and officials did not declare additional at-risk zones beyond the seven districts announced Wednesday.
Residents in those districts were asked to move their valuables to upper floors.
Authorities also expressed confidence that the country’s main international airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport, was prepared to withstand the water’s impact. Airport officials said a 3.5-meter-high flood prevention wall protects the airport.
Overall damage from the floods could top $2 billion, with the worst yet to come as the waters destroy shops and paralyze factories nationwide, the Thai finance ministry said.
A massive effort is under way to protect one of the nation’s largest industrial parks north of Bangkok that houses companies producing electronics and components for the automotive industry.
At least 14,000 factories have been affected nationwide, with about 250,000 people out of a job due to the floods, according to Richard Han, the CEO of Hana Microelectronics.
The flooding will also disrupt the production of computers, cameras and cars because a lot of Japanese companieshave plants in the country, said Han, whose company is among those affected.
Floodwaters have forced manufacturing sites north of Bangkok to halt operations. Last week, Honda said the closure of its plant there affected the production of at least 4,500 cars.
In Bangkok, crews scrambled to widen canals and strengthen flood barriers amid fears that weekend rains and spring high tides would overwhelm parts of the city.
In the ancient city of Ayutthaya, one of the worst-hit areas, officials said the water was starting to flow toward the rivers.
The temples and monuments in the UNESCO-listed historical city have been submerged for days, prompting concern that much of the water damage will be permanent.
Government officials said they have received $2.07 million in donations, including from other countries, as food and water aid pour in for the worst-hit areas.
CNN’s Kocha Olarn and Faith Karimi contributed to this report.