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Monday, August 18, 2008
Will Bangkok face a huge flood from a storm surge?
August 18, 2008
Mr Smith Thammasaroj, the man who first blew the whistle about the potential of a tsunami hitting Thailand, Indonesia and other countries in the Indian ocean which actually took place six years after he had made the doomsday's forecast is back to the limelight with a new controversy.Â He predicted that Bangkok and several coastal provinces border the Gulf of Thailand might be hit by a storm surge and submerged some time between August and October.
In a grim scenario painted by this former chief of the Meteorological Department and a former expert of the National Disaster Prevention Centre, storm surge, generated by gale-force wind of more than 100 kilometres per hour in the Gulf, would overwhelm the areas with waves of more than two metres high.Â As for Bangkok, the 1.5 metre high flood wall erected along the Bangkok side of the Chao Phraya river will be overflown and the sea water will surge deeper inland, possibly up to Ayutthaya province and contaminate the source of the city's tap water.Â The flood situation will remain for about two weeks before it subsides.
As a long-term solution to deal with future's storm surges which he believed would be more frequent and probably more violent, Mr Smith suggested that a flood wall of about four metres high should be built along the Gulf coast from Petchaburi in the South up to Chachoengsao in the East.Â The costs were estimated at several billion baht.
As it did with his grim prediction about the tsunami back in 1998 before hell broke loose on the Christmas day in 2004, Mr Smith's forecast of the storm surge was initially ignored and greeted with disbelief.Â Not even his former subordinates in the weather bureau were convinced.Â TheyÂ found him an alarmist and his prediction nonsensical.Â Apparently unperturbed, he kept on repeating his doomsday's forecast whenever there was an opportunity.Â Gradually and steadily, the initial public response of disbelief has turned to curiosity and concern as more and more people in Bangkok have started wondering if the city will face a huge flood from storm surge.Â
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration which is directly responsible for safeguarding the capital city initially turned a deaf ear to Mr Smith's warning.Â But as public inerest on the issue has mounted, it started to respond although not totally convinced.Â As a precaution, authorities concerned were alerted, areas most prone to storm surge were identified and a guide book on how to deal with the emergency situation have been distributed.Â A readiness drill was also planned in Chon Buri, another coastal town prone to the potential calamity.
Yet, the Meteorological Department remains adamant that there is a slim chance of a storm surge hitting Bangkok and coastal provinces.Â Dr Wattana Kanbua, chief of the maritime meteorological centre, said recently that the bay area on which Bangkok is located is about 100 km wide while the area for the kind of storm to whip up a storm surge should be 300-1,500 km wide.Â He also said that theÂ temperature of the Gulf has not yet reached 27 C which might induce a devastating storm.Â In short, there is no way that there will be a storm surge this year.
Caught between the two conflicting opinions from the two experts, I am confused yet remain concerned.Â I believe many other Bangkokians share my view.Â Honestly, I am doubtful of Mr Smith's prediction which was largely based on statistics and assumption rather than scientifically proven.Â But I will be wrong to just stand idly by and let my fate rests in God's hands alone.Â Remember that popular saying:Â Help yourselves first and God will help you.
I have worked out some precautionary plans such as where to park my cars, definitely not in underground parking lot and some survival kits which need to be made handy.Â What about you?Â It won't hurt if you take some precautions because when the crunch actually comes down hard on you, the authorities will all be tied up and you will on your own.Â I have had experiences of how clumsy the authorities were in case of an emergecy situation of huge proportion. And I have doubt about their capability.
As for Mr Smith, he appears to have staked all his reputation on this forecast.Â If he is proven right, then his reputation will soar.Â What if he is wrong (which will be a big relief for we, the Bangkokians), then he may have to take a long rest to lick his wounds.
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