Friday, October 28, 2011

Bangkok Floods

Bangkok citizens were told to evacuate the city some days ago. Some people, including myself, have stayed. Here we are looking around at all the dry ground and thinking 'where is the evidence?', 'Where's this great flood?' The truth is some of the city, in the west has began to go under due to rising rivers / canals. When the flood comes it will come fast. One minute you're pointing at a small trickle of water and laughing at the great flood and the next you're up to your neck in it. If Bangkok barriers begin to fail (which may or may not happen) the northern section of the city will become inundated and STILL people like us south of the city will look around our little world and say, 'where is the great flood?' - Well, we might soon find out.

This could be human nature. In psychology, denial is a subconscious defense mechanism characterized by refusal to acknowledge painful realities, thoughts, or feelings. But where to go? It seems that the whole of Bangkok are evacuating to beach resorts and surrounding towns. Finding a hotel room for a large family is a nightmare, and then there's the actual travel part. Heavy traffic, roads being blasted apart to allow water to hopefully flow away from the city. Flooded roads traveling with kids (my youngest 5 year old can't swim!) Perhaps we're safer at home on the first floor where we have moved all our possesions. We are a couple of metres above ground here. Maybe camp out hoping the city will win its fight against this mass body of water and rising tides. Maybe not. Should we stay or should we go?

Stories are filtering through blogs and forums and newsrooms. One expat thought he was safe in the Northern city of Chiang Mai back at the end of September... His neighbours were being told that the water was incoming and he looked for all of the reasons to leave the city and couldn't find any. There was no flood outside the window. Dry as a bone. His house and his business ended up being flooded by 1.8 meters of dirty diseased water. He was stranded on the second floor of his office building for almost a week with just enough food, water, and at times without electricity. Then there was the story on Thai TV about the old lady trapped in her Auythaya home for days. Up to her neck in dirty water the shack-of-a-dwelling becamce infested with snakes. And what about the hundreds that have already lost they lives already in the floods? This is a serious matter.

The prudent advice is to pay heed to the government warnings, think worst case, and evacuate... once the water hits, our options are considerably reduced. The reality is that here in Bangkok we have an ocean of water above us and, any breach in flood defenses, physics takes over and water level inside the city will find equilibrium with levels outside of the barriers. The whole city will become flooded.

Thailand has taken a national holiday to allow people to escape. Shops are running out of basics like water, rice, dried noodles. Many rich Bangkokians panic-bought hording masses of essentials before fleeing the city. Stories of Hi-So Bangkok women with pocket-sized dogs and designer hand-bags checking into Pattaya bordellos keep us smiling. But the trouble is supply lines are not making it through to supply the major food-chains. Supprisingly the local markets still have all the basic things and vegtables and meat easy to find in the markets. I guess The High Society don't shop at the markets.

The next high-tide is this evening between 5-6pm. This is the time when it'll be most likely that the Chao Phraya bursts her banks. Its probably best to leave whilst we still have the choice.

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