Friday, October 28, 2011

Whatcha goin to do with Boat after 2011 Bangkok Flood?

This is worrisome.. I went for a meeting yesterday and my customer looked totally stressed out and tired. His office is underwater and his engineer stranded at some industrial estate far far away. He had invested THB 20,000 to get a boat and fitted it with an outboard to get his engineer out and also for everyday use during this period.

Asked: "You buy boat, ever think about what you gonna do with it after the flood is gone?"

Replied: "It can be used next year again when the flood is expected to be worse. In 2010 during the post rain season, his office was flooded to ankle level. This year 2011, up to his neck. Next year and beyond, with global warming increasing, expect worse." .. . . .

And just to update, petrol stations are now running out of petrol as the main storage depot is now a playground for fishes. Ciggy supplies had been cut, mini-marts ran out of stocks... so for us smokers, maybe it's a darn good time to attempt quitting.. ... .

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wait & Wait - 2011 Bangkok Flood

Now the question on anyone's mind here is not "when will the flood be over" but rather, "when will the bloody flood come???". The media had kept many of us in central Bangkok on our toes for two solid weeks. This has caused unnecessary panic which resulted in the shortage of food and drinking water in the supermarkets. The shortage in turned caused the stockpiled rations at home to be consumed. The circle completes itself with the over demand and undersupply of food and drinking water. Best of all, the government seemed to have overlooked this area. Profiteers now increased their price on whatever is left, from water to rice and exponentially on water gear especially. A life vest, normally left on the shelf to rot, went from TH 350 to THB 1,500. Stash of useless plastic boats that's more like a toy and that nobody buys went from THB 2,500 to THB 6,000. All as reported on TV.

Fear in the eyes of people interviewed on news now turned to impatience and anger. We are now saying "Let it come, just let it come please, we don't want to be on alert and stress forever. Why is the government interfering with the natural course of the water!!". Some would be nagging "Block block block then it breaks, causing destructive currents. Block block block and then the water stays in the village, stagnate and now we have turned suburbs successfully into lakes of sewage!!".

Postman, they have all died it seemed. I am waiting for an important document for two weeks now. There is not a single post delivered to our block during this period. Just using the flood as a good excuse not to work. Kentucky Fried Chicken, they ran out of potatoes and greens, we can only have chicken now while Swensen's ran out of toppings. And you did be lucky if you can order a bottle of mineral water eating out.

Cars, thieves are helping themselves to a buffet of them now. Police, not many of them in sight. Cars parked dry on the highways became a treasure trove for them criminals whose balls deserve to be cut off. So did the houses as them thieves arrived on boats.

Panic had driven many to do ridiculous things. Shops and household barricaded themselves in with high cement walls and sacks of sand bags while the street out front remained dry. Entering requires climbing over. But observe carefully, and you will see the possible passageways at corners where water will easily slip through. What?? Is this a trend that if my neighbor have himself a fort and so must I?

Every day on TV, they will invite some different doctor, professor or what not. Every day a different advise. WTF is the media doing??!! Every hour, news updated on the so many dedicated web sites, none in English. Everywhere on the roads, warnings signs put up to warn of impassible sections and detours, none in English. We want to flush the farangs from this land or what??

Waiting for the food to come, voices from the floor. Let it come and get it over with you bastards, stop blocking the water.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bangkok Flood 2011? Bangkok still Dry

Where have all the farangs (caucasians) in my block gone? I asked the building management office below. She said they have all gone down south to the beach to escape the floods. There is only one farang left (not me, I am already more Thai than a foreigner). Farang's office, factory flood, so farangs now holiday. Farangs all afraid of flood, so they escape with Thai girlfriends to holiday.

The flood in the surrounding provinces had driven the farangs away, but it has also in turn brought in a massive flood of countrymen into the condominium I stay. Many residential apartments here in Bangkok had turned into a temporary refuge for someone's mother, father, son, grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunty, cousin and whatever being that can be traced to their family tree, very large tree. With this, came also an influx of cars, very big bunch of cars. So parking has been difficult these days if one were to come home after six. Kiasunisim (scared loose, scared die which is a Singapore slang) has been brought to a new level in Thailand, witnessed by the inconsiderate and un-orderly parking on all upper decks. Everyone wants to park on the upper floors, no one wants to park on the ground level. Why? Unnecessary panic.

During this period of chaos, political figures each took their turns to steal the limelight on TV. One said here will flood, the other say don't listen to him. One say water will come and order evacuation or urgent preparation, the other said its bull shit and only listen to the other. Flood brings water, water brings flood of confusion as we don't know which authority to listen to. People are frantically parking all over the toll ways in Bangkok without consideration to the traffic. Bangkok is dry, massive jams on toll ways for no reasons.

The sun sets early now as winter is setting in. The atmosphere in Bangkok this week had been gloomy. The gloominess can really be felt. It's a combination of the fear back in everyone's mind, plus the unnatural darker then norm of the sky. Strom clouds and darkness in the far horizon every day we see accompanied by the occasional thunderstorms in Bangkok from time to time. And when it rains it floods, but it floods because of the rain, not the torrents from the north. Bangkok is now encapsulated in a wall of old and newly constructed embankments. And within this large blob of a city, household dwellers many have surrounded their landed property in sandbags. I heard of one whose house was flooded even though he had put up a fool proof defense. That's because when it rained heavily, it kept the water in. Bangkok was dry, but his home was a pool.

The temper of many have grown shorter as the flood period grows longer. There are conflict in many of the affected communities. Some members of a village went ahead to destroy the dam build by another because it kept water in the former. Ugliness of people started to surfaced like flotsam. Boat taxis operators in masses moved their long tail boats across the levee from one waterlogged community to the other. That, just so to make the THB1,000 per trip to transport stranded victims out of their home. But by doing so, by sliding their so many boats across the mud levee, it gave way and water rushed in. All caught on public CCTV these culprits were. There have also been a rise in abandoned property being broken into this period. You moved your LED TV to the second floor, when the waters came you leave. When you return another day on a boat to check on your home, the grill had been compromised, the window broken. You lost more than just your TV. These criminals deserved to drown for abusing the situation, they ought to be shot on sight.

Well I bet the fishes are happy, they got the whole Bangkok to swim in soon. But they do need to be weary, fisherman are now casting their nets where the roads once were. Crocodiles had escaped from the overflowing farms. Rewards are given if we catch some. Leeches a plenty in some areas, wear that long pants if you go into the water. Mosquitoes has been the irritant of so many, the repellent depleted at Seven Eleven. The department store I was in yesterday, not a sight of a bottle of mineral water. The flood had reached some of the water treatment plants, my tap flow lately it smelled of soil so boil and drink I not rather.

Attempts to reason with nature is futile. Attempts to reason with nature will end in chaos. The rivers are where the waters will flow. And we are putting up so many makeshift dykes that prevented the natural flow into them. We want the water to flow here and not there, protect this estate and not that. We do not want the water to go into the river because we don't want the river to break her banks in central Bangkok. But that's what rivers are suppose to do from time to time, turning the surrounding into a flood plain so that water high up could drain. Although Bangkok is dry, I don't think we are making things better for the surrounding majority, I think we are just extending the flood.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Preparing for the great 2011 Bangkok Flood

I guess Thailand is one of the few places on Earth where one ponders how insurance can be claimed if one were to ram into a boat. It is indeed mystifying this situation. Thailand is also one of the few places on Earth right now that your friend calls you to bring him beer by boat should the flood sets in. Also, only here, we have live vest as part of household necessity items. This season, there is no need for car wash, just drive into the flood to give your car a quick bath.

In the supermarkets, instant noodles had been snapped by the lot leaving the shelves empty. And in the alcoholic aisle, Singha beer had been depleted. There were still two boxes of Tiger left, showing Thais prefer Thai beer after all.

Many provinces in Thailand had been inundated starting from a month back. This season, the rainfall is abnormal and we all conveniently pointed the finger at the easy excuse of global warming. Some folks in my office blamed the so many dams and hydropower plants abundant in this country that challenged nature. When it rains, we hold the water preventing floods. Dams benefit the farmlands holding in water for irrigation. Dams benefit the country's power demands as the held up water churned the turbines, like a battery these hydro facilities are when charged up by the rain. But we prevented the natural flow, and guess what happens when you charge a 1.5 V AA battery over a 115kV line? Like now, we have too much water.

Thais see everything in a different light. One individual said, this is the Lord Buddha washing the country clean of its dirty politics. Another said, this is an intervention from up there resisting the Prime Minister's policy to grant first time car owners a one hundred thousand Baht rebate by wiping out the Honda factory just up north. Over lunch, little coffee breaks in the pantry and during small talks over business meetings, this has been the main topic.

These two days, driving to work has been a breeze. Where have all the people gone? Many folks had returned to their provinces, to help their old parents move that TV and whatever valuables to the second floor I was told. I live in a condo, my room will never flood. But I do try to park my car on the second or third level if lots are available. We live in Bangkok, it is still dry for now. But many have been making arrangements by renting a lot to park their ride in multi-storey office complexes, or that big shopping mall nearby wherever they live. Bangkok had been dry so far because of a system of walls and levees previously build. So far we had kept Bangkok dry at the expenses of surrounding provinces drowned. The waters now embrace our protected space flowing with resistance into the sea. Many said its only a matter of time before we see New Orleans in Thailand. The levee will break.

I seek excitement, I want to witness. I want to drive with the rushing waters chasing my car behind as the levee of Chaopaya gets breached. I want that adrenaline rush or so just to experience what back in Singapore I do not. But do I? And I went to find out for myself. I drove over the bridge crossing Chaopaya and saw that she was heavily bloated. The brown river was strong and just less than a meter before water flows over the long resisting wall. The riverside houses of the poor, many half submerged.

U-turns along some roads are no longer possible. Like with all bridges over the myriad of canals here, you find a u-turn below it. The Mercedes driver thought his European car standard very good and so he plunged into what seemed like a meter of water. He never made the u-turn. I do not want to be floating down the canal in my sphere of a Honda Jazz, so I went on to look for the next u-turn down the long road. I made the turnaround a long distance further. The sandbags already breached and a few of them had toppled in, the black water flowing effortlessly over.

In a village near Bang Bua Thong I was and the next thing I realized was that the exit out was being flooded. The water had breached the village and they had to prevent the flow out onto the main road. By then the water was too deep and trucks making their way out had waters to the mid of their doors. The excavator was activated and was pushing sand to block in the village, a sacrifice - small village flood better then Bangkok flood. Now I know why the news of many stranded in the so many moo-barns in Thailand. Fortunately, I found another small exit rear of this encampment, but I had to negotiate the flooded roads and over a small desperate makeshift levee. Any time later, I would have made wherever I was my second home.

At Nonthaburi pier, the boats were sighted above the line of sand bags. That told me how delicate the situation was. Just one break and I will be paddling in water. The volunteers are on their 24 hours watch, napping in between on the embankments, ready to jump into action to plug that impending breach.

Some shop houses had put up cement walls, that which to be taken down after the flood and that which seemed too low to me. ATMs had been sandbagged in, probably to prevent people like me from dragging a floating ATM to my apartment during the flood. One thing I did like to do if the water breaks then, was to stick around and see if money flows out of these boxes like water, I would be happy.

Its dry now in Bangkok, we go about our daily lives. False security I am not sure, the flood will come we are not sure. In fact we are not sure of anything, even the government is not sure. But deep down, evil in me, I want to see it coming, it's gonna be a selfish experience of a lifetime. Phenomenon like these, never happens in Singapore unless you are talking about the joke that happened on Orchard Road. There is a high chance the flood of Bangkok will happen, but again these are just speculations. Flood, come get us. We are all ready at least.