Oct 08 2011
The stars — and moon — are moving into alignment to bring Bangkok some of the worst flooding in fifty years. October 16 will see a spring tide (a tide that is higher than normal because of the position of the moon) that causes the Chao Phraya river to stop draining towards the sea, while over six billion cubic meters of water are making their way from wreaking havoc in northern Thailand to the capital region.
It’s not yet clear exactly how much of the water can be contained north of Bangkok; currently dams in Ayutthaya responsible for containing the flood waters are very close to capacity.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration maintains a partial series of levees on both the Bangkok (east side) and Thonburi (west side) of the Chao Phraya river — the areas around Khao San Rd and Democracy monument are well protected, however further south in Chinatown there are areas where the levees are not completed, as well as north towards Bang Sue.
With over 11 million people living in a city that is effectively at sea level, the effects of flooding will be dramatic and sobering. Prime Minister Yingluck said today, “This will have a direct impact on Bangkok.” She continued, “We have to admit this is more serious than in the past.”
So what’s a traveller to do? At this stage, well travelled bits of Bangkok are unlikely to be greatly affected — Sukhumvit, Silom, and Khao San Rd are not expected to be seriously inundated. Chinatown will be at risk, as will many riverside attractions.
Rules of thumb for a flooded Bangkok? We’ve got three.
First, while tap water in Bangkok is potable, switch to bottled water during flooding.
Second, don’t wade into flood water; SE Asian sidewalks are notoriously (ridiculously) booby trapped during a clear sunny day. Unimaginable horrors lay underneath that metre of brown water.
Finally, offer help where help is needed, but remember, sometimes the best help is to get out of the way.
The Thai Highway Department has put together a Google map of flooded areas, it is only in Thai unfortunately, but Thai Travel Blogs has an embedded version of the flood map with the key icons translated into English, so if you’re planning on driving, be sure to check it out.
Also, the US Embassy has put out an emergency message regarding the floods.
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