November 4-9, 2011
As of today, about one fifth of Bangkok is under water.
Of 50 districts in the capital, eight are inundated and four are partly flooded. The remainder are under warning. The total area of the Thonburi side of Bangkok will be covered with water.
The tone of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been flip-flopping to create further confusion. Late last month she suggested that the worst would soon be over, with the peak of the sea tides on October 31. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) had also assured us that Bangkok districts would be safe. There had to be dry areas in Bangkok, otherwise the capital would no longer function.
But as the situation was about to improve, there were jolts. The BMA had to seek help from 400 metropolitan police officers to guard Khlong Sam Wa from being harassed by local residents who wanted to open the water gates wider to reduce the flooding in their community. Yingluck signed an order on October 31 that technically chained Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra to the ground. The BMA was ordered to open the sluice gate to let water flow into the capital. This would presumably help relieve the trauma of the residents around Khlong Sam Wa in northeastern Bangkok. Khlong Saen Saeb, which runs through the heart of Bangkok to the Chao Phraya River in the west and Khlong Phrakhanong to the south, would have to take in more water from this critical decision. There would be risk of spillover floods from Khlong Saen Saeb.
Bangkok has had ample time to prepare for the floods. The public have been informed all along that the government would be trying to save the capital by trying to divert water to the eastern and western parts of the city to save inner Bangkok. As of now, the water can't be channelled to the eastern side, which is located on higher ground. The excuse is that there is not enough equipment or water pumps to handle the task. Therefore, the authorities will have to rely on Khlong Sam Wa to channel the water down into the capital, which will have to take in its share of the floods.
Almost all of a sudden, Bangchan Industrial Estate, Lad Krabang Industrial Estate and Suvarnabhumi International Airport - in this strict order - have come under threat of flooding. Water has begun to seep into Bangchan from underground pipes and the sewage system. Don Muang Airport has already been lost to the floods. If Suvarnabhumi Airport were to be shut down, Thailand would be in complete ruin.
Late on Wednesday evening, vandals destroyed 17 points in the dykes protecting the water works canal, the source of tapped water that almost 10 million Bangkokians rely on for drinking and other consumption. This was bordering on espionage. If the authorities fail to protect the water works canal, the capital will be doomed. Already, the Metropolitan Water Works Authority has been forced to cut back its tapped water production by 10 per cent, from 4.7 to 4.2 million cubic metres a day.
Adding to the panic in the capital was a news story that 15 venomous African mamba snakes had reportedly escaped from a flooded building in Nonthaburi. Veterinarians are hunting them down. Vaccines from Japan have to be imported in case anyone is bitten by one of these snakes. Whether this story is true or not remains to be seen. But it has increased panic among Bangkokians on top of the thousands of crocodiles which have been let loose from farms due to the floods in the lower northern and central regions.
According to Dr Anon Snitwongse, a water expert from Chulalongkorn University, some 10 billion cubic metres of water still stretches from Sukhothai to lower Bangkok. Of this, seven billion cubic metres is concentrated in the east, with the remaining three billion in the west. Bangkok is under threat of flooding from some 3-4 billion cubic metres of water, which has to go south into the canals, rivers and eventually to the sea.
The flood disaster could have been prevented if the water had been released in time from dams in the North. There could be worms in the Irrigation Department. The water was blocked from being diverted to the Tha Chin River in the west. As a result, the Chao Phraya River was the only main course that the water could flow down. The water was also prevented from flowing to Prachin Buri in the east, leaving it to flow and hang on in the central region and now Bangkok. The water could not be diverted to Min Buri either.
Mismanagement on this scale cannot be coincidental. Every step of the way, the government fumbles and the situation gets worse. There are hopes only to be followed by despair. The stress and trauma of people living in flooded Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani have worsened. Bangkokians are living by the day, as if they are waiting for Judgement Day.
As districts fall one by one to the floods, the authorities will cut off the water supply and electricity. At one point, we might see a rush out of Bangkok, similar to previous weeks when Bangkokians travelled down south and east to Chon Buri and Pattaya. Many have now returned to Bangkok since the public holiday is not extended.
The mismanagement of this whole affair appears to follow a scenario of total disaster. Once the capital runs out of food, drinking water, electricity and the possible breakdown of communications, we can kiss Bangkok goodbye. By that time, we will forever lose our capital.
PS: Will this be our last meal and my last massage?
I am going to fight this flood with my own two hands!
And I thought Harold Camping was totally weird.
PS: Parental cartoon.
PPS: A more scary parental cartoon.
PPPS: A realistic cartoon.
Our building is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
Jesus and the Devil.
More evidence that inner city Bangkokians treat this flood threat seriously. "The raw oysters are flown in from where?" "Are these lobsters from Maine?" "And, the caviar?" "The wine is from Montrachet, isn't it?"
Next: Part III