Al-Jazeera clip here –
BANGKOK – After her house in the northern Bangkok suburb of Nonthaburi was flooded to waist height a week ago, Kanokkorn Nomruen evacuated to Bangkok’s Don Muang airport before being moved again to Rajamangala soccer stadium closer to the center of Bangkok.
“I think it might take 4 weeks for the water to go down at my home”, she said, sitting on a plastic mattress in a sports building close to the stadium, where she and almost 2,000 other homeless Thais are sheltering.
“They are looking after us well here”, she smiled. “The worst part is being away from my daughter, who is a receptionist at Lualak hospital. She is sleeping there for now.”
Don Muang airport is closed, and, after being used as a temporary shelter for the flood-displaced , was today itself almost-completely flooded, as a slow-moving mass of floodwater to the north of Thailand’s concrete jungle capital edges its way towards the center of Bangkok.
That airport is 22 kilometers from the main business and shopping heart of the city, which otherwise remains dry, with sandbags barriers lining plush shopfronts. How much of inner Bangkok eventually comes under water is still not clear. Earlier Friday morning, a barrier was breached in the Phra Khanong district, along one of the inner city’s many canals -and potential flood breaking points – that link into the Chao Praya river which arcs and swerves through Bangkok.
Under pressure from a high tide in the Gulf of Thailand, and the mass of floodwater to the north of Bangkok, the river itself has bursts its banks several times in recent days, sending water into riverside temples and residential areas close to where Thailand’s 84 year old king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, is currently hospitalised.
Later on Friday afternoon, I visited the flood-stricken Pathum Thani suburb, north of Don Muang. Edging slowly on a truck through 7 kilometers of waist-high blackwater floods – with the stagnant waters now sitting a week in what are normally thronged, bustling streets – driver Lek, 32, who preferred not to give his full name, said that he doesn’t understand why people remain.
He is happy to help, however, and explains that “my company is called Siiribut, we usually truck sand”, as we drive past the now-inundated office on Lam Luk Wa road in Pathum Thani.”The boss said we should now use the trucks to help people”.
Asked about the water levels in that stricken area, he said that it had dropped by “around 6 or 7 centimeters since yesterday”. So, the much-dreaded flood run-off into central Bangkok, if it happens, looks like a slow cascade, with the fate of the city resting, perhaps, on how much water can drain, and how quickly, via the Chao Praya river and the network of canals through and around the city, and into the Gulf of Thailand, without breaching flood defenses en masse.
For the last two days, Mr Lek has driven the sand-truck, with four-foot-high wheels, over and back the road, ferrying locals from one dry end to the other, with would-be passengers waving from embankments to call the driver over to stop.
The water stinks, with refuse floating everywhere, so it is not hard to see why Lek would be puzzled. An answer came, however, after he dropped this correspondent, along with 23 other passengers, off at a temporary bus-stop taking people back to Bangkok’s Mo Chit station, the main terminal connecting the city to Thailand’s north.
Looking up as the darkened evening skies opened and another untimely thunderous downpour emptied onto Bangkok, Sirichai Aphawansat said, after alighting from the bus coming back to Pathum Thani from Mo Chit, “I go back home (to Pathum Thani) every evening as I am afraid people will steal”.Show