As I noted last week, Thailand is suffering through its worst flooding in 50 years. Central Bangkok remains relatively well protected and the risk of flooding is moderate. However, the water needs to go someplace, so the protection of the capital comes at the expense of the communities to the east and west where much of the excess water is directed. So far, nearly 300 people are dead because of the water, hundreds of factories have been damaged, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been temporarily lost, and millions of people have been directly impacted. The latest estimates are that the floods will cause a 1 point reduction in GDP growth this year and that up to 7 million tons of rice production will be lost.
According to The Nation, one of the country’s major newspapers, there are 16 billion cubic meters (or 565 billion cubic feet) of excess water in Northern and Central Thailand that need to flow into the Gulf of Thailand. Even with 550 million cubic meters (18.8 billion cubic feet) flowing out daily, it will still take a month to drain the surplus. The map below (copied from The Nation’s website) illustrates the large number of canals that still run through Bangkok and the main rivers — the Chin River to the west of the capital, the Chao Phraya that runs through Bangkok, and the Bang Pakong to the east.
To put this in perspective (particularly for my friends in western NY), the average flow over Niagara Falls is 4 million cubic feet per minute or 5.8 billion cubic feet per day. Thus, the additional daily flow through southern Thailand is more than 3x the normal daily flow over Niagara. With two-thirds of the excess water expected to run through the Chao Phraya, the extra daily flow through Bangkok will be more than twice what goes over Niagara each day.
The map on the left shows Bangkok north through Ayutthaya. The parts that are already flooded are shaded blue, the highest risk areas are in pink, the high risk areas are in orange, and the moderate risk areas are yellow. Our apartment is in the yellow area, approximately at the small star that I have overlaid on the map.
The Chao Phraya river is now 7 feet above normal and it is getting close to overflowing its banks. Sandbags are deployed at hotels, restaurants, homes, and businesses near the river. People are parking their cars at the airports, on the higher floors at shopping center parking structures, and even on elevated roadways to protect them from the water. The government has advised people to call Wild Animal Rescue if they spot crocodiles or other wild animals — Toto, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore!
Ayutthaya, about 50 miles north of Bangkok, remains particularly hard hit by the flooding. There are 15 elephants stranded on the top of a wall at the local Royal Elephant Krall and Village. Elephants are revered animals in Thailand and people are doing what they can to help provide them with food and clean water. Elephants, however, eat between 200 to 400 pounds of food daily, so feeding and cleaning up after them are huge endeavors.
The largest threat to Bangkok is expected between October 16 through 18 as the greatest volume of water from Central Thailand descends on the capital at the same time as the tides in the Gulf of Thailand are at their highest. The latest developments can be found at the websites of the two major English-language papers in Thailand, the Bangkok Post and The Nation.
Diamonds & Denim
Last night, Theresa and I went to a fund-raising event that was sponsored by the American Women’s Club that she joined a few months back. The theme was Diamonds & Denim and the event featured a chili cook-off and a casino night — very much a mix of Texas and Las Vegas. A group named the Big Boy Band covered classic rock ‘n’ roll music from the 60s to the 90s (but thankfully no hip-hop or rap.) If you did not know you were watching a Thai band perform, you would have been unable to tell from the vocalists who had an uncanny ability to emulate British and American voices.
A couple of hundred people partied late into the night dancing and gambling for chips. Casinos are not allowed in Thailand, although there are apparently a large number of illegal ones here, particularly in Bangkok, and there are legal ones right across the border in Laos and Myanmar.
Back to the U.S.A.
Our December travel plans are now finalized and our itinerary is as follows:
- Depart Bangkok on Dec. 1 for Buffalo (Go Sabres!)
- Depart Buffalo on Dec. 4 for Nashville (Kurt) and Boston (Theresa)
- Depart on Dec. 8 (Kurt) and Dec. 9 (Theresa) for Detroit (Go Lions!)
- Depart Detroit on Dec. 11 for Cancun
- Depart Cancun on Dec. 16 for Dallas/Fort Worth (Go Rangers!)
- Depart Dallas/Fort Worth on Dec. 22 for Christmas in NYC
- Depart NYC on Dec. 27 for New Year’s in London
- Depart London on Jan. 2 and arrive in Bangkok on Jan. 3
We are looking forward to visiting our friends and family during our trip back to the states.
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2011 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.