Sunday, October 23, 2011

Time of the Flood

These past two weeks I wake up everyday expecting flood water lapping at the entrance of the building I live in. It's always a relief to see things are as normal as it can get, but the risk of flooding is still imminent.

Those following the news would know by now that Bangkok is gripped with the fear of a flooded city. Nearby provinces such as Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani have been inundated for at least two weeks now, so Bangkokians are saying it's only a matter of time when it's the capital's turn. So far central Bangkok has been spared of the flood, thanks to canals diverting water. 

While the weather in Bangkok and most of Thailand is now sunny, the past months have been particularly wet, hence, filling up the dams with massive amounts of water. The dams released water a bit late, that's why it's only now we're feeling the brunt of the rainy season.  The disaster has so far ravaged 175 districts in 28 provinces, affecting 2.45 million people.

I took a stroll around my neighborhood a few minutes ago to check on the situation. I live about a hundred meters away from the river. Yesterday, there was some serious flooding several blocks from my area as a result of the Chao Phraya River overflowing its banks. The situation is compounded by tidal flow, so there are times of the day when the river's water level is particularly high. 

Since about two weeks ago when the threat of flooding seems more imminent, some business establishments in my area have already stacked sand bags in front of their doors. The nearby 7-11 has in fact built a concrete fortification around it.

Walking farther to the bank of the Chao Phraya, I saw some houses half submerged in water. Sand bags were keeping the water from overflowing into my street, but the water level was just a few inches from the top of the sand bags. 

Interestingly, houses closer to the river bank, say less than 50 meters away, were not even protected from the flood. There was a glaring absence of sand bags, instead the neighborhood seemed to be treating it as another regular weekend. Two children were playing in the water run off close to the gutter.

When I went to the nearby pier, most of was already under a few inches of water. Again, sand bags kept the river from inundating the street. Sand bags were also used to divert water from flowing into the street, but in general life at the immediate vicinity of the pier looked normal, with some businesses still open.

Looking at the canal, I was surprised to see the water level there was in fact lower than normal. Flood gates kept the water from rushing into it. There should be about three meters difference between the water levels of the canal and the river. 

As of now there's way of telling how and when the flood will recede. There are reports of the flood lasting another six weeks. I still feel a bit confident that Bangkok would be spared - at the expense of the surrounding provinces and suburbs, unfortunately. But for good measure, I'm keeping a stock of cup noodles, yogurt, peanuts, and raisins.

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