Bangkok’s rising tide, fading hopes.

*Quick Flood Blog no. 1*

The Bangkok floods arrived on my doorstep this morning in Banglamphu district near Khao San Road. After a month of Government warnings advising residents to stock up on supplies, the shelves of the 7-11 grocery stores remain devoid of fresh food, cars and vans sit awkwardly on blocks, even the bridges have become giant parking lots, to the extent that emergency vehicles cannot get through on some of the remaining dry roads.

Brick walls, erected around many doorways, seemed an extreme option only a week ago. Now, they may just have saved an entire business from ruin.

I look at the people who have no option but to stay and protect their properties. Children sit on high walls with their younger siblings, gazing at the police diverting motorists from flood zones. Pick-up trucks now serve as rescue vehicles. An elderly woman walks away from her submerged shop front helped by passers-by. Young motorcyclists weave along the narrow Banglamphu streets looking for an escape route. Faced with a 20-metre wide lake in front of them, they met our pessimistic but concerned gazes and back-stepped, hiding their disappointment as best they could. Still, some cyclists pushed themselves along the waterways taking photos.

It is a shocking sight to see my main street under water, after being bone dry only the night before. Banglamphu, one of the main tourist enclaves here, was forecast to be better off than most of the outlying areas to the north, east and south, mooted to suffer only a mere 10-15 cm of water. Looking at it this morning this is more like 30 cm already. God knows what it will be tonight.

Standing in the middle of my main street photographing the poor souls whose smiling faces belied the hard work ahead to rescue their businesses, the water crept around my ankles within a matter of minutes. I backtracked to keep myself dry but was overrun as I kept my eyes on the viewfinder.

My biggest worry concerns the notorious pollution in Bangkok’s water. The khlongs (canals) around my area must contain the filthiest H2O on the planet. Longboats churn diesel into its blue-grey swirl, animals die in it, not to mention the litter that is ‘accidentally on purpose’ thrown into it. If this toxic waste finds its way onto the streets I’m sure we’d have a bigger problem than food supplies alone.

I left Bangkok this afternoon on probably the last of the minibuses that have the luxury of negotiating dry roads. What is normally a 45-minute drive to the neighbouring district of Nakhon Pathom took over 2 hours, diverting through back streets and then leaking back onto elevated sections of highway. As we passed over the car-clogged bridges I peered down into the streets below. Kilometres of water along every street.

We’ve all been warned, taken precautions and now face the enemy head on or ‘legs in’ I should say. The apprehension behind the threat of imminent flooding has built up over weeks and left communities drained even before the high tides turned bad. The Government announced a public holiday from Thursday 27th October through to Monday 31st October. At least now residents can concentrate on protecting their businesses and property and hope for a clean up soon. The floods could remain for months though. I pray Bangkok copes over this time.

© Warren Field 2011


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