Bangkok improvises to stay afloat

Bangkok improvises to stay afloat

Locals flood-proof homes, fear disease as officials fail them in Nonthaburi and Bangkok

Monks paddle boats in flooded Wat Pho Luen in Muang district of Pathum Thani, just north of Bangkok. Heavy floods have inundated many parts of the province for two weeks, and show no sign of receding. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Monks paddle boats in flooded Wat Pho Luen in Muang district of Pathum Thani, just north of Bangkok. Heavy floods have inundated many parts of the province for two weeks, and show no sign of receding. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

Residents of flood-prone areas in Bangkok were forced to resort to makeshift measures to secure their homes and possessions last weekend after the city was slammed by violent rainstorms that left cars submerged while mothers pulled infants along streets in inflatable dinghies and zebras waded knee-deep at Safari World.

Some residents had lost faith in the government's claims that it will prevent widespread flooding in the future but many interviewed by the Bangkok Post seemed resigned to their fate as they constructed makeshift stilts to keep their belongings dry.

The capital was pelted with rain from 11pm on Friday to around 6am on Saturday, leaving 55 areas around the capital flooded. It was the heaviest recorded rainfall since 1986.

Somkiat Prajamwong, director-general of the Royal Irrigation Department (RID) said after the floods that runoff would be diverted to other provinces to help get the situation under control.

One of the most affected areas was a stretch of Vibhavadi Rangsit Road running from the Sutthisan area to Lat Phrao intersection. The area remained partially under water until late Saturday afternoon.

A man who gave his name as Tong said the floods caused chaos and inconvenience for those looking to travel in and out of the road. He owns a shop selling fruit juice there.

"People had to use sticks and umbrellas to navigate the footpaths so they wouldn't fall into deep ditches hidden by the water," said the 56-year-old as he swept away garbage and leftover leaves Monday.

Two of his wooden stalls broke down after they were swamped in dirty water for hours, he said.

"There's nothing we can do about it other than move on," Mr Tong said. "It was out of control."

Residents living in neighbouring Nonthaburi province also experienced severe flooding, with some parts of Rattanathibet still flooded Monday.

Water pumps commissioned by Nonthaburi municipality were in operation in front of Rattanathibet soi 18, where several homes were damaged.

The municipality earlier reported it had shut floodgates connecting canals in Nonthaburi to the Chao Phraya River due to rising water levels.

As of late Monday afternoon the water level at the Chao Phraya dam in Chai Nat stood at 1.39m below the bank, the RID said.

Duangjai Suksawad, who lives in the Rattanathibet area, woke up to find her living room and kitchen flooded on Saturday.

"We were trying to scoop away the water as quickly as we could," she said. "The water in my house had risen to ankle-level."

Ms Duangjai, 75, said her property did not incur any damage as she had already flood-proofed it with some stop-gap steps.

"I put bricks under my refrigerator to elevate it above the water," she said. "I've prepared for one flood a year but we've already had two this year."

In common with other residents in the area, she had re-positioned electrical outlets higher up on her walls. Some properties also had deployed makeshift water-pumps.

Another resident was concerned about the potential health risks from being exposed to dirty floodwater.

"It's alarming because many kids go out and play in the water," said Amon Phusilathaen, a 46-year-old seamstress.

"But it happens very often around here so we just have to deal with it."

Ms Amon said she flood-proofed her house after the city was rocked by calamitous floods in 2011 triggered by tropical storm Nock-Ten.

It affected 65 of the country's 77 provinces, leaving over 800 people dead.

Meanwhile, residents on the Thon Buri side of the capital experienced moderate flooding last weekend, according to local reports.

Khlong San, previously a flood-prone area, has seen its flood situation improve after the completion of the Chao Phraya dam in Chai Nat in 1957.

A merchant with the name Pinit said people on the Thon Buri side are generally not worried about severe flooding but he sympathised with those in other areas.

"They have no choice but to keep elevating their houses, which is obviously exhausting," he said.

He blamed mass public littering for clogging up the city's irrigation systems.

"If we can teach kids to stop shoving litter into the drains we'll see a big difference in 20 years' time."

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