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Thailand's Flood Crisis 2011 - An Expat's View from Bangkok

Updated on November 8, 2011
Map of flood affected provinces throughout Thailand
Map of flood affected provinces throughout Thailand

2011 - The Greatest Flood in Thailand's History

'Nahm Twoom' the Thai word for flood. There is a lot of debate whether or not Thailand's flood crisis was avoidable or not. And there is certainly as many fingers to point as there are to blame. From the rookie Prime Minister Yingluck Shiniwatra to the Governor of Bangkok and corrupt politicians to the military. In a way, Thailand's flood crisis is a recipe for the perfect storm.

For the past month everyone in Bangkok concerned about the flood has their eyes' glued to the nightly news broadcasts. Watching intently where the flood has already hit and who's next in the path of the flood waters. Even rumors of a nefarious plot of creating a "New Thailand" has surfaced that the flood was created on purpose so that huge swaths of land can be bought for dirt cheap and can then be replaced with another money making metropolis like Bangkok.

Like everyone else I am also keeping a close eye. And like everyone else I keep hearing a different answers from the powers that be. To be fair - it is a massive amount of water and I don't think anyone is prepared to give an answer at all. At best the professors, politicians and so called flood experts advising the Prime Minister are all making educated guesses. It is the biggest flood catastrophe in Thailand after all.

Thais are all too familiar with floods and just the past few years alone there were major floods up north and northeast from the capital city of Bangkok. But this year's flood is quite epic as runoff water of an estimated 100 billion cubic meters of water is about to engulf Bangkok since the city sits right on the delta leading to the sea.

This has nothing at all to do with the fact that most would see Thailand as a third would country. Being caught unprepared in a disastrous flood of epic proportions does not have anything to do the with a country's superiority. Just take a look at the USA and its own Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005.

Who's right and who's wrong doesn't really matter anymore since the city will inevitably be inundated and partially submerged. What matters now is how the government can avoid such a huge disaster in the future.

Even though popular areas where most tourists stay in inner Bangkok such as Sukhumvit and SIlom are supposedly quite safe from flood waters many tourists have cancelled their travel plans. And many who are staying here have fled to Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui, Hua Hin and any other province that are not in the path of runoff waters from the north.

Both Pictures Taken A Day Apart

November 2nd, 2011 - At Major Ratchayothin Complex by Phahon Yothin Road
November 2nd, 2011 - At Major Ratchayothin Complex by Phahon Yothin Road | Source
November 3rd, 2011 - At Major Ratchayothin Complex by Phahon Yothin Road
November 3rd, 2011 - At Major Ratchayothin Complex by Phahon Yothin Road

An educational video on how the flood started

Care for the elderly is a major concern
Care for the elderly is a major concern | Source

Thai People in a Crisis

The occasional foreign tourists to Bangkok might see Thais in an unfavorable light. That's because their interactions are strictly within major tourist attractions. Which is where most Thai scam artists and annoying aggressive touts ply their trade. In turn most tourists assume that all Thais are the same and equally conniving. Every country or major city has it's fair share of scoundrels. Even in NYC where I live half the year.

To me, since living in Thailand 6 months out of the year for over 10 years I see them as some of the kindest and most down to earth people on the face of this planet. And I hope it shows from the pictures I've placed on this hub.

Many of the people displaced by the flood waters are the poor and lower middle class Thais who had to deal up with dams and sandbags with water as high as several meters in their homes. And know they have to put up the possibility of being electrocuted, poor sanitary conditions, snakes, crocodiles and water borne illnesses.

There is a saying that the Thai people are poor planners. But they are excellent at coping.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mounds of sandbags protecting a local bank creates a barrier for customersOnly trucks are able to pass through submerged roadsSome Thais heading to work and some leaving their homes with a few personal belongings on their backs.A truck ferrying passengers homeLife goes on even in ankle deep watersA local new crew in my area before floodingA Thai police man directing trafficMany of the city's bus services have halted since this photo was takenA good Samaritan offering a free ride for the flood wary Not something I would normally see on the streetThe Thai military, mostly young men doing their country proud by helping outSmiles all the wayA lady selling rubber knee high boots - Even the floods can't dampen the entrepreneurial spiritFlood waters for most Bangkokians is a novelty and I noticed many taking pictures and videos with their mobile phonesClearing the sewer drains - this exact location has seen an increase of water levels since thenA group of ladies trying to find a ride to work
Mounds of sandbags protecting a local bank creates a barrier for customers
Mounds of sandbags protecting a local bank creates a barrier for customers | Source
Source
Only trucks are able to pass through submerged roads
Only trucks are able to pass through submerged roads | Source
Some Thais heading to work and some leaving their homes with a few personal belongings on their backs.
Some Thais heading to work and some leaving their homes with a few personal belongings on their backs. | Source
Source
A truck ferrying passengers home
A truck ferrying passengers home | Source
Life goes on even in ankle deep waters
Life goes on even in ankle deep waters | Source
A local new crew in my area before flooding
A local new crew in my area before flooding | Source
A Thai police man directing traffic
A Thai police man directing traffic | Source
Many of the city's bus services have halted since this photo was taken
Many of the city's bus services have halted since this photo was taken | Source
A good Samaritan offering a free ride for the flood wary
A good Samaritan offering a free ride for the flood wary | Source
Not something I would normally see on the street
Not something I would normally see on the street | Source
The Thai military, mostly young men doing their country proud by helping out
The Thai military, mostly young men doing their country proud by helping out | Source
Smiles all the way
Smiles all the way | Source
A lady selling rubber knee high boots - Even the floods can't dampen the entrepreneurial spirit
A lady selling rubber knee high boots - Even the floods can't dampen the entrepreneurial spirit | Source
Flood waters for most Bangkokians is a novelty and I noticed many taking pictures and videos with their mobile phones
Flood waters for most Bangkokians is a novelty and I noticed many taking pictures and videos with their mobile phones | Source
Clearing the sewer drains - this exact location has seen an increase of water levels since then
Clearing the sewer drains - this exact location has seen an increase of water levels since then | Source
Source
A group of ladies trying to find a ride to work
A group of ladies trying to find a ride to work | Source
Source

Yet Life Goes On - Mai Bpen Rai

I admire the sheer resilence of the Thai people. Their generosity shines whenever there are natural disasters such as the Tsunami of 2004, the floods that have hit the north the past few years as well as the clean up of the streets by the average citizens after the red shirts took control over parts of the city in 2010.

'Mai Bpen Rai' is a phrase you will hear often in Thailand. It has several interpretations such as 'That's okay', 'No problem', 'Never mind' and 'It's no big deal'. It is sort of a philosphy in life that implies all is well.

Strangers helping an old lady across a submerged road
Strangers helping an old lady across a submerged road | Source
A priceless smile
A priceless smile | Source

A Little Help Goes A Long Way

My pictures of the flood affecting the people in Bangkok doesn't do any justice for Thailand as a whole. As bad as the flooding is in Bangkok there are other provinces in the country that is in even far worse conditions. Homes have been completely submerged in Thonburi, Nakhon Pathom, Nakhon Sawan and other outlying towns and village.

Rice fields, plantations of all varieties and factories that supply jobs to thousands of Thais are submerged by water that won't recede for quite some time. And many of the affected are poor farmers and laborers who have had their lives changed overnight.

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    • Nick Hanlon profile image

      Nick Hanlon 

      6 years ago from Chiang Mai

      Thailand is changing.The Mai Phen Rai attitude is going away and being replaced with quiet outrage.they're asking why is this happening,why is that happening?

    • Edwin Clark profile imageAUTHOR

      Edwin Clark 

      6 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      Hello livingabroad, thank you for visiting. Let's all hope the flood doesn't happen again this year or ever again. Cheers!

    • livingabroad profile image

      livingabroad 

      6 years ago from Wales, UK

      Luckily the floods didn't effect the Chaiyaphum area where I lived at the time of the floods. I can relate to how the Thai people act in times of crisis, they certainly pull together and their generosity is second to none. Even in normal day to day life. Up and interesting

    • style-of-life profile image

      style-of-life 

      6 years ago from Netherlands

      I really can't imagine how this would be if it happened in my city. My heart goes out to all.

    • Edwin Clark profile imageAUTHOR

      Edwin Clark 

      6 years ago from Thailand by way of New York

      @steveso, they wil certainly bounce back! I love Penang btw. Was considering staying there once. Going to be in KL in a few weeks though.

    • steveso profile image

      Steve 

      6 years ago from Brockport, NY

      This is a great, yet sad story. We have had a lot of rain here in Penang, but nothing like Thailand. My heart goes out to the Thai people. They are very resilient and will bounce back soon.

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