Thailand floods – 2011

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The ongoing Thai flooding sucks with almost $50 billion in damages including another $25 billion to get everything back to normal. This is all thanks to 20 billion cubic metres of rain. That is a lot of money, and a lot of water, earning Thailand the dubious distinction of having had the world’s fourth most expensive natural disaster happen to them. The most expensive one also happened earlier this year, which was… ? The Japanese earthquake and tsunami. This sure has been the year for natural disasters, hasn’t it?

Moreover, this is to say nothing of the almost 13 million people who have had their lives turned upside-down. That is about the entire population of Belgium or Greece! Yet of the ten people I interviewed last week, not one person was directly affected by the flood. While that is all very well and good for them, it would not be smart to treat this incredibly fortunate turn of events as anything but temporary… because it is temporary.

I do not want to alarm you, although alarm may be what it will take to get you into action, but we all know there is no stopping the icebergs from melting, which means the sea is getting more and more water, and we all know Bangkok is below sea levels. Where we are concerned, that is not a very good combination. And this flooding? It pales in comparison to its predecessors, of which there were many, six in the last decade alone (!), with the worst in 1942 having the water twice as high as ours. Hence “been there, done that…” raising the question of just what on earth the government, both old and new, has been doing if not making sure there won’t be another flood. I mean, is that what they’re supposed to be doing?

Instead, they have been reacting to the crisis and, when that did not work, keeping us thoroughly confused. Take all these helpful quotations, for instance, in chronological order. The flood is coming, it is getting better, oh it is not, but it will soon, not that soon, very soon. Is it any wonder, then, that some people, like myself and my family, decided that it was now every man and woman for themselves?

I live right next to this smelly khlong that we did not care to have overflowing into our house. It has happened before in 1995 and got to about hip-high. With all the contradictions coming from the government, we thought, screw it, we will prepare for the flood first and ask questions later. We had concrete barriers built around our front and back doors, sandbags bought, and the necessary manpower hired to lift the washing machine and refrigerator above ground level. And bought a boat, too! All of which came to just about 10,000 baht, including the cost to demolish the concrete barriers when we figured the water was not coming.

But I was one of the luckier ones. For others, the water did come.