The scope of the flooding in Thailand continues to grow. The latest data that I have seen say that over 360 people have died, nearly 1 million have lost their jobs because of the flooded industrial zones, 62 of the 77 provinces have been impacted, and 10 million people have been forced from their homes or are living in flooded homes. And this is before the floods hit Bangkok, which they have begun to do on the northern edges of the city, where another 10 million people reside.
Despite today’s sunshine, the water from northern and central Thailand moves inexorably closer. Today, the government finally admitted that it cannot protect Bangkok. The water has begun to breach embankments and collapse levees. Many of the barriers that have been built in the past few weeks are really nothing more than sandbags and earthen dikes, neither of which is much of a match to the pressure of the billions of cubic meters of water.
The recently elected prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, warned today that the entire city of Bangkok is facing floods ranging anywhere from 10 cm to 1.5 meters. General Pracha, the head of the Flood Relief Operation Center, said today that “Bangkokians should adjust themselves and accept the reality that all parts of Bangkok will be under water. The degree of flooding will depend on the landscape of each area.” Parts of the city are already flooded including Don Mueang, the old international airport in the north of the city that is now used for domestic flights and as a shelter for many who had been driven from their homes. Suvarnabhumi, the new international airport to the east of the city, remains dry and open.
As the general noted, the depth and severity of the flooding will depend on the topography of the land as well as on the proximity to the Chao Phraya river and the major canals. As you can see in the terrain map below, we (point B) are in a pretty low part of the city and we are less than 2 km from the river. The good news is that we are pretty well protected from the bulk of the flood water in the north by the higher terrain. Thus, our major risk is from the overflow of the Chao Phraya. The river right now is about 2.4 meters above normal and the embankments are about 2.5 meters high, so there is not much more room left for the river to rise without spilling over.
To give you some sense of what things look like, on Monday afternoon I was walking near the Chao Phraya with a friend and water was already leaking into the adjoining roadways. Here are some pictures that I took:
According to a briefing that I received at work today, we are in a zone where in a worst-case scenario we should expect up to one-half meter of water within the next day or two (see map below — we are about at the star.) This projection was developed by a Dr. Seri Supharathit, a respected flood and water management expert at Rangsit University. Dr. Seri has a good track record and he is independent of a government that seems unable to either know or tell the truth. (Sounds like most governments though, doesn’t it? BTW — If you happen to see the megalomaniac-in-chief traveling around in his taxpayer-financed campaign bus, please ask him to come to Thailand. Anyone who can slow the rise of the oceans and heal the earth should have no problem dealing with a few billion cubic meters of rain runoff.)
The highest risk will be from October 28th through the 31st as the new moon brings with it higher tides. Unless the flow from the north can somehow be slowed, the higher tides (up about 30 to 40 cm) will almost assuredly cause the river to overflow its banks.
As of now, everything remains dry in our neighborhood. Our apartment building is about 1.5 meters above the street and the general manager tells us that he has enough sandbags to protect an additional 1.5 meters, so I am feeling pretty good about not living in a flooded building. My bigger concerns are power (we live on the 23rd floor and that is a whole lot of stairs to go up or down for someone –not me — who is on crutches), tap water (the flood will likely contaminate the canal that is used as a fresh water source — time to load up on beer, I guess), and sewage (maybe that beer could be a problem.) My plan is to ride it out, but if things look to be getting worse than the worst-case scenario, I expect that we will get into the car (or perhaps into a truck) and head to Pattaya, Hua Hin, or some other pleasant resort area for an unscheduled vacation.
Kop Khun Krab.
© 2011 Kurt Brown. All rights reserved.