Bangkok faces possible deluge – The Irrawaddy

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Thanadoldolwat Pornkhienthong, owner of the Supatra River House Restaurant, watches water rush in to his yard (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

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BANGKOK – “I asked the BMA (Bangkok Metropolitan Authority) and the Army for help with sandbags, but no response”, said Thanadoldolwat Pornkhienthong, owner of the Supatra River HouseRestaurant on the west bank of the Chao Praya river.

The waterways winds it way through Bangkok, and from Mr Thanadoldolwat’s balcony, offers splendid views of the river – to the spectacular Khmer-style Temple of Dawn on the right and the Grand Palace across the way.
However, the upstairs promenade dining area is littered in drying clothes and furniture lifted up the 10 feet of stairs, after downstairs on Wednesday evening, water gushed in, covering the yard and sidestreet entrance to the restaurant in 2½ feet of water.

“I have to try protect myself”, said Thanadoldolwat, who despite living right on the often swollen river, says “I have never seen anything like this in the twenty years after I open this business”.

On Wednesday evening, after floods closed the Bangkok’s second airport and site of the country’s temporary flood management agency known as the Flood Relief Operations Centre (FROC), high waters on the Chao Praya ran down as far as the Grand Palace on the river’s east bank.

Asked on Wednesday whether all areas of Bangkok would be flooded, Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said that it would depend on how dykes and barriers in the east, north and west of the city hold up. If walls in all three areas fell, the city would flood, she said, with different areas experiencing water levels between 10 centimetres to more than a metre.

 

Cooking on the east bank of the Chao Praya, Wednesday afternoon (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

However the PM that “I am 50 per cent confident that the inner zone of Bangkok will not be completely flooded”. That said, on Thursday morning, Thongthong Chantarangsu, a spokesman for FROC, said that “I would like to ask Bangkok people who are already affected or could be affected soon to consider evacuating to other places,” said

Northern districts around Rangsit and Pathum Thani – the latter home to unknown thousands of Burmese migrant workers – are already under waist to neck high water. Burmese exile media is reporting that migrant workers are facing exploitation and deportation by Thailand’s police and by Burmese traffickers, as they try to flee their flood-hit areas in Thailand, for relative safety, even in repressive Burma.

Boardwalk blues: Thais cross from east to west riverbanks, here alighting from ferry at Siriraj hospital (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

In keeping with the apparent turf war going on over flood management, mitigation and message-sharing, Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra warned that the whole of the city was liable to be flooded by today, as billions of cubic metres of backed-up water edging down from the already-deluged provinces to the north, pushed farther into the capital overnight. The Governor, a member of the Democrat Party that lost power to Yingluck’s Peua Thai in Thailand’s July 3 Thailand parliamentary election, on October 8 held a ‘lai nam’ (water dispelling) ritual aiming to placate the river goddess Ka Kang, and, according to the logic of ceremony, thereby prevent or mitigate the damage on the capital.

The information war took a new turn on Wednesday, with The Committee to Protect Journalists, a NGO that “aims to press freedom worldwide by defending the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal”, saying that it “is alarmed by reports that Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government has tried to censor the citizen-journalist website Thaiflood, which has provided crucial news and information about massive flooding that has inundated one-third of the country’s provinces.”

Water rushing into Wangnang market area on the west bank (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Two hundred meters down the street, northbound from the Supatra restaurant, and in the shadow of Siriraj hospital where Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej now stays, Noppon Supsitong sat on a newly stood-up concrete block wall on the steps into his now closed clothes shop ankles dangling in the brownish-looking overflow 15 yards in from the riverbank.

Nearby, Thailand’s Navy laid sandbags and cemented up adhoc walls using light bricks, to protect the hospital, as the first river flows seeped into the street in front on Wednesday evening.

With high tides generating another predicted river swell today and over the weekend, the area both sides of the river is likely to under more water soon. 150 meters away, Noppon Supsitong’s street is under two feet of water. “The first water came in two days ago to here Wangnam market”, he said, gesticulating up and down the narrow street.. “Good information is hard to come by”, he added, “But I am not angry about that, it seems to be a lot of water so I guess authorities cannot know everything for sure”.

Floodwaters on the west bank of the river (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

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  1. Pingback: As rains start, Thailand faces drought or flood conundrum - Christian Science Monitor | simonroughneen.com

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