Benito Vacio

Remembering the terrible floods

We will never forget the horrors of late 2011


A lot of Thais said the 2011 floods in Thailand were the worst in 50 years. Factories and businesses, agricultural crops and countless properties were damaged at a huge cost. Anyone who experienced it will never forget.

It was midnight on the 26th October when I was awakened by sounds of machines and thuds of heavy equipment from the 6th floor of my apartment. I thought it was a car pileup but when I looked out of my window, I saw trucks, cranes and bulldozers building a barrier of clay on the right-hand side of the road.

In the morning I went out to buy something for breakfast. Many young and old people had formed a line to pile sandbags to stop floodwater from flowing across Watkoo Road and Southern areas of Pak Kret. Several photographers were taking pictures of the scene and capturing the anguished faces of the people. At noon the barriers were finished but water continued to rise over the following days rising to chest deep in some places.

Water had reached knee-level in our apartment building our apartment floor. I went to Pak Kret market for some essential provisions. Fortunately, motorcycles could still carry passengers but the road was very muddy. We had to stop to give way to working cranes fixing and elevating barriers An unbelievable four kilometers of barrier had already been built.

I went to 7-Eleven and Lotus to buy canned goods, rice, noodles, sugar, and other basic things. The shelves were empty from the panic buying. I went farther to Ngamongwan but the things I wanted to buy were also gone. In fact households and owners of business establishments in Pak Kret market and in all areas had to build concrete barriers or piled sacks of sandbags half a meter high.

When I came back to my apartment there was already a wooden bridge attached to the concrete wall separating our apartment from another lot. This also helped the residents near the Chaopraya River to save their pets and personal belongings.

The next day I went to Park Kret market. When I came back home, the road was blocked and vehicles were being re-routed. Instead of taking five minutes to get home, we took nearly an hour. When I was nearing my place, our sawng thew (taxi-bus) was stopped by a traffic cop because the flood current was too strong. Part of the barrier was broken. All the remaining passengers had no choice but to walk. I walked 400 meters, wading in brown knee-deep water.

Surfing the internet, I came across an advertisement for volunteer work at Don Mueang. An Englishman there was doing an outreach program for children affected by flood. I decided to go and offer my services, but on the way, I couldn't pass through Chaengwattana road near Laksi so I had to come home.

Since I would be going back to work in a few weeks, I wanted to check if roads going to my school in Sainoi would be okay. I took the 134 bus to Bangyai. Upon reaching Ta it, the people got off and transferred to Bus 516. The bus ran for only a few meters before everyone had to get off again.

I followed the crowd and I saw all sorts of vehicles going in all directions loading people as busy as ants. I saw a pick-up truck facing towards Bangyai. People hopped in and I hopped in too. With my little knowledge of Thai, I just kept quiet and hoped they would not realise I was not Thai.

The truck proceeded to Bangyai along the flooded road. The pick-up truck stopped and picked up every man or woman who hailed a lift and could manage to hang on to the vehicle. The truck looked like a moving Christmas tree moving at a snail's pace through the knee-deep water. I saw boats and vehicles of all kinds loaded with people. When we reached Bangyai, it was an incredible sight. I had never seen Bangyai that way iin five years. It was like a brown sea with hundreds of castaways, half of their bodies were under water waiting for a boat to rescue them.

People were appearing from all directions with life-vests while others had none. Motorboats of all types were being hired to transport people. I changed my mind not to check my school so I went back home without getting off from the truck. Some passengers offered a fare but the driver wasn't all that interested in taking people's money. He just wanted to help as best he could.

I was relieved when I arrived in Bang Bua Thong. I took bus number 134 and got home safely. It took another two weeks for me to wait until school opened and for classes to begin.

When I look back, the 2011 flooding was like a bad dream. I witnessed the difficulties for pet owners. There were sightings of crocodiles looking for some tasty human flesh. Snakes got into houses, furniture rotted, electrical appliances were ruined. Most importantly, lives were lost. Many people felt anxious and helpless. No one knew when the floods would subside and the nightmare would be over. I was marooned on an island uncertain of my future.

After a month, things improved in Central Thailand and the water subsided. Just as the government said it would. Remnants of the flood lay all around - from plastic to paper, wood, cans, clay and all sorts of detritus - lying on the side of the roads ready for the street cleaners to do their job.

A week later and my classes started. When I returned to my school, a supposedly 30- minute drive took two hours. When I reached my school, my eyes widened in surprise. Of all the places in Nonthaburi, my school was as dry as a bone. It was lucky to be only one of three elementary schools in Sainoi district to be unaffected by floods.

The Nonthaburi local government was generous enough to pay the foreign teachers for November even though we failed to report for work (but we paid it back from December to March).

During this disaster, the Thai people adopted their best "Jai yen yen " (cool heart) attitude and this made it easier for them to accept what had happened.
So floods of 2011 goodbye - and may you remain as a nightmare never to haunt us again.




Comments

"So floods of 2011 goodbye - and may you remain as a nightmare never to haunt us again"

I'll second that Ben. That was such a stressful time for so many people. I guess I was one of the lucky ones inasmuch as our home never got flooded but we had to climb over sandbags and in and out of the living room window for what seemed like forever.

By philip, (12th November 2012)

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