Flooding occurs every rainy season in Thailand, but this year has proved well beyond ordinary. Cat and Nat tell of the damage done and how to prepare against continued rising waters.
Photo Credit: http://www.jorpor.com
Over the period of this week, most Bangkokians’ favourite topic of conversation has been all about the imminent flooding. We’ve seen scary photos from the central province of Ayutthaya, which is only about an hour-plus drive from the capital. In a large industrial estate in Ayutthaya almost 200 factories have been closed. According to a friend whose factory has been closed since last week, he stands to lose millions of baht. Since July, flooding has killed nearly 270 people across half of Thailand’s 77 provinces. Reuters news reported that about 3.4 million acres of farmland is under water, while more than 700,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged.
So far we have seen only minor flooding in Bangkok; however, as much of the capital is only two metres above sea level, officials are preparing for worse this week and considering evacuation plans for some sections of the city. The water level at the Chao Phraya River is already very high; many who live near the river are monitoring the water level daily with fear.
I live in a condominium about one kilometre from the river. I am sure should there be flooding in central Bangkok, my area is certainly to be affected. I have never experienced any serious flooding in Bangkok during the 16 years I have lived here. I may not be so lucky this time. For the past few days, I have noticed that the car park in my condo is full of cars that don’t normally park there. Obviously owners of the empty condos have decided to move their spare vehicles to higher ground.
As much as I don’t want to believe central Bangkok is likely to be flooded, I went out in search of extra food and water supplies at my local supermarket today. I discovered that I was too late — there were notices stuck on the water shelves saying they were out of stock of all locally produced drinking water. If I wanted to spend 80 baht-plus per bottle on imported water, there were still some spare ones available on the shelves. The next item on my list was tinned tuna. I discovered that most of the tinned food on the shelves had disappeared also, but fortunately there were still a few dozen cans of tuna remaining. I likewise was quite relieved to see there were still plenty of dried pasta, pasta sauces and cured meat products on display. The frozen food sections were also quite plentiful; I therefore stocked up on whatever dry and frozen food items I was able to get.
I am not sure why we are all doing our fair share of panic buying. I suppose this is a natural reaction when one feels a disaster is about to hit us!
One of our friends living in Minburi is getting an early taste of the floods that will soon hit greater Bangkok. He just moved into a new home in July and finished furnishing it last month. After a few years of financial hardship, moving in was a declaration of triumph. Life did not defeat him and there he was, back on his feet.
In less than a day, this triumph was literally in ruin. That house which had been his pride and joy, a symbol of his success despite life’s hardships, was flooded out in less than 24 hours. The appliances in his new kitchen shorted out. The upholstered furniture completely submerged under the flood waters and unsalvageable.
It was all he could do to get his dog and cats to safety. The house had to be abandoned. The waters rose that quickly.
And so, for those of us in central Bangkok, the spectre of similar disaster looms. As we listened to our friend despondently recount his frantic escape, we realised that we would have to prepare ourselves for the worst. Our friend had managed to save his pets, his computer, his mobile phone and some personal documents. But what good are a computer and mobile phone without the chargers? He has his credit cards, his identity card and driver’s license but his house registration and passport were kept locked in a strong box in the kitchen and are now presumed lost.
So what can we do to prepare ourselves? There’s been a run on supermarkets as people stock up on food and bottled water. But what good is plenty of food when the refrigerator is no longer working?
I live in a two-storey house and so am not too concerned about my dogs and cats. We’ll be fine as long as we have electricity. I began researching emergency generators today.
My main concern is my car. It’s an old Toyota Land Cruiser and should be tall enough to survive some minor flooding but, even then, it won’t last being submerged for weeks.
Perhaps the best thing is to think about the basics and hope they are enough.
On their website, the American Red Cross advises that we should be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice. In the process of evacuation, do not risk walking into water that is above the ankles. Six inches (or 15 centimetres) of moving water can sweep a person off his feet. They also warn not to drive into flooded roads and that ‘most cars can be swept away by less than two feet (600 cm) of moving water.’
These are the supplies they suggest you prepare:
- Water — at least a three-day supply; one gallon per person per day
- Food — at least a three-day supply of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food
- Battery powered or hand cranked radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Medications (seven-day supply) and medical items (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane)
- Multipurpose tool
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
- Cell phone with chargers
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra cash
- Emergency blanket
- Map(s) of the area
- Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
- Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
- Tools/supplies for securing your home
- Extra set of car keys and house keys
- Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
- Rain gear
- Insect repellent and sunscreen
- Camera for photos of damage
13/10/2011 - 13:36