Thailand Floods 2011
This blog was written over a period of weeks during the great Thailand floods of 2011. The latest stories are at the top of the column, the earlier ones at the bottom.
Bangkok Floods - all over?
Updated: 25 November 2011 09.30am.
My wife has taken down the house flood defences and, more significantly, businesses around the Sukhumvit area are doing the same. Compare the photo of Citibank below with the one taken on 25th of October.
Rail and Bus Services are returning to normal and the industrial estates are beginning to dry out, but the residents of North and West Bangkok have not seen much benefit yet. The city Governor has promised that Bangkok will be dry by new year: hope so.
Latest from State Railway Authority (SRT):
Updated: 23 November 2011 06.45am.
Southern Line Trains are now back to normal.
Trains 141 and 142 between Bangkok and Ubon Ratchathani are cancelled until 26th of December. I would advise checking with the SRT (hotline: 1690) if you are intending to use any other train on the North-Eastern Line.
Trains between Bangkok and Chiang Mai Nos: 1 and 2 (overnight) and 9 and 12 (daytime) are running, but starting their journey on the Eastern Line, adding 1 to 2 hours to the journey time. You can catch the train at Bangkok Central Station, or at extra stations: Makkasan, Hua Mak, Chachoengsao and Kaeng Khoy.
All statements are dated 22nd November, on the SRT's thairailticket website. If you intend to travel by train, I would strongly advise that you check with the SRT Hotline (1690) first
Floods Update, 19 Nov
The high tides have passed for now and it looks as if the worst is over in Bangkok, though some areas of Bang Kapi, East Bangkok, are under a new evacuation order. My wife has taken down the flood defences from our front and back doors and the house is returning to normal despite the fact that a street 200 meters West of us is flooded.
I flew into Bangkok from the North East, yesterday, and was astonished at the amount of water still lying on the ground. It looked as if nearly every field was flooded, and some roads also in the fields for many miles to the North and South of the Airport. I do not think the situation will return to normal any time soon.
The State Railway of Thailand announcements haven't really changed (see below) and I believe rail travel is still disrupted, though buses are running and planes are flying.
Trains, 14 Nov
I have read various blogs which say the trains are running North East and others saying not. However I have heard several trains running on the Eastern Line this morning, but whether to the East, North East or North, I could not say. The thairailticket.com
site still suggests difficulties to the North East. The SRT Train Tracker shows activity on the Eastern Line and some on the other lines.
I am travelling myself for the next few days, so blogs may be less frequent. Bon voyage to all travellers, especially in Thailand!
Update 13 Nov
Though the waters are receding up country, they are still rising in East and West Bangkok. I went past the airport to Lat Krabang this morning and found the drains had overflowed, in many places up to 8" deep. I am told that in Sukhumvit 23, central tourist area, the drains are also overflowing, though not seriously. Nothing new on train services but tides will be high again over the next few days. I noticed last evening that my doggy friend at Asoke MRT station had resumed his position 1 meter above potential floods.
Authorities still say different things: the Irrigation Department say the crisis will be in a few days; the Governor of Bangkok, on the other hand is promising the end of the floods as a New Year present - hope he doesn't mean the Thai New Year nest April.
Trains North East, 14 Nov
A new announcement on the thairailticket.com
website, dated 12th November, says that certain trains to the North East, specifically Ubon Ratchathani, are cancelled. If you are travelling to the North East by train check out the SRT hotline 1690. Trains to the South continue to start at Nakhon Pathom, trains to Chiang Mai and the North continue via the Eastern Line.
People in the unflooded areas of Eastern and Central Bangkok continue to protect their vehicles. The road bridge under construction at Prawet already has at least a dozen vehicles parked on it, despite the fact that contractors continue construction. Our village has now acquired a 1 meter high ramp made of stone chippings to protect the entrance, and by the swimming pool are five plastic boats.
Flee from the soi dog, meet the Cobra
Two days ago, walking home to the village I found I was sharing the quiet soi (street) with a 6 foot long, around 2" diameter snake, possibly a Cobra. The land next to the soi had been cleared during the week and his remaining habitat was the narrow hedge separating the soi from the cleared land. Fortunately he wanted as little to do with me as I wanted to do with him and he slithered into the hedge. As the other side of the soi is inhabited by feral dogs, one of which has recently taken a dislike to me, I had to walk up the center of the soi.
The area where I live, near the airport, used to be famous for snakes and was locally known as Nong Gnu Hao, Cobra Lake (or Cobra Swamp depending on the season), and that was the original name for the new airport. There are still swampy bits around, and still a few snakes, some of which turn up in our village from time to time. A friend of mine found Cobra skins in his garden which lies next to the perimeter wall. The snakes had obviously got in through a gap in the wall, which he then plugged. I assume there are similar gaps between sections of wall, all around the village and if snakes can get through, so can flood water.
On the other hand my doggy friend at Asoke Subway station (blog of October 25) has taken to sleeping at street level again. Either he thinks the danger of floods there is minimal, or he thinks a 1 meter perch is going to be no protection whatsoever!
Travel, 09 Nove
Travel to the North of Bangkok is severely affected by flooding. The main roads North, Phahonyothin and Viphavadi Rangsit, are partly closed. Flood Water is creeping down these roads towards Central Bangkok, already reaching the Victory Monument. The Southern Bus Terminal is flooded, and trains to the South are still starting at Nakhon Pathom.
On a more hopeful note, waters have receded in Ayutthaya and Nakhon Sawan. Photos of the historic park at Ayutthaya on Thai TV yesterday showed some standing water near Wat Sri Sanphet, but no flooding. Flood levels are also dropping in Pathum Thani, North of Bangkok.
Flood Victims, 09 Nov
I went to my travel agent yesterday to book a flight. A polite enquiry as to the manager's home situation got the reply that her home had been flooded since 17th of October and since then she has been living with friends. Her home is in Bang Bua Thong, North West of Bangkok.
Later in the afternoon I visited a friend's office in Sukhumvit and, questioning the absence of his secretary, was told that her home was also flooded and she had been living with family in Chonburi for the past week. The floods have disrupted the lives of a huge number of ordinary Thai people, and claimed the lives of over 500.
It was a bit of a shock later on to pass the new Terminal 21 building on Sukhumvit and see a huge Christmas Tree, just behind the flood barrier.
Trains, 06 Nov
A new announcement on thairailticket.com confirms that they are still busing passengers for the Southern Line from Hua Lamphong to Nakhon Pathom.
Supplies, 06 Nov
Yesterday, on my trip to inspect the canals in Lat Krabang, I also called in Tops Supermarket - no supplies of Heinekin Beer. Things are getting serious but I did not realize how serious until I popped into my local Tesco Lotus Express - no beer of any kind, also no milk, though lots of sugary, fizzy stuff. A friend tells me that was no Singh beer in Nana Plaza on Thursday or Friday.
Critters, 06 Nov
A friend who lives very close to the floods in East Bangkok tells me he has an unusual neighbour - a 6 foot monitor lizard. According to Thai neighbours this creature has been living discretely in the local canal for a long time but has become more visible as the floods have approached; she has now been forced to dig up her eggs and move them to higher ground. Apparently she is quite a genial soul, but where there are eggs one assumes there is also at least one male around, who is maybe not so friendly.
Stories of crocodiles on the loose have been publicised for some time and on Friday The Nation reported that a man in Lak Si (North Bangkok) had been attacked by one. A story of escaping green mambas appeared last week also, but no-one seems to have identified the owner of these reptiles yet. Thai TV is showing pictures of other "critters" who might turn up in your house or garden, including centipedes, spiders, snakes and scorpions. Sorry I do not currently have a photo of a Monitor Lizard.
I saw some children yesterday collecting something from a patch of land that had just been cleared. I do not know what was in their bucket but most of the people in that area are of North Eastern stock, so it was probably snails or frogs.
Trains, 02 Nov
The State Railway Authority have posted new notices on the thairailticket.com website. Trains South are still starting and finishing at Nakhon Pathom: busses are taking passengers between Bangkok Central Station (Hua Lamphong) and Nakkhon Pathom station.
They have also announced the re-opening of the Northern Line to Chiang Mai. The journey will take an extra 1-2 hours as the trains have to be re-routed via the Eastern Line to avoid the floods in Northern Bangkok and Ayutthaya. Call 1690 for further information.
Thailand's Transport Company has moved its Southern Bus Terminal to Rama II Road.
At least the weather in Bangkok is drier and brighter: it feels like we are finally out of the Rainy Season. The floods contnue to advance on central Bangkok, however, despite the fact that the level of the high tides has fallen.
Good News, Bad News, 29 Oct
The good news is that the Asia Highway North has been re-opened and that the water level is dropping in Nakhon Sawan and Ayutthaya, upstream from Bangkok. The bad news is that much of riverside Bangkok is starting to flood, including Khao San Road, the area around the Grand Palace, and much of Thonburi. Parts of Eastern Sukhumvit Road near Phrakhanong are also reported flooded. Train services South have been disrupted. Today and tomorrow the incoming tide reaches its highest point - see below.
The old airport has been flooded for some days but the new one continues to function. I checked the level of Khlong Prawet near the airport this morning: the level had fallen a few inches and water was moving slowly Westwards. For a round-up of flood news go to: Thailand Travel Blog
Times of High Tides In Bangkok
Minburi and Lat Krabang, 27th October
I never thought I would be publishing tide tables instead of railway timetables on ThailandByTrain.com, but needs must. This weekend could be a critical weekend for Bangkok, especially at high tide. parts of Chinatown and Arun Amarin (near the Temple of Dawn) are already starting to flood, and I suspect that many riverside communities could be inundated over the next few days.
I went back to Lat Krabang and Minburi this morning. The situation at Lat Krabang, just East of the airport, is improved - still some flooding in low-lying streets near the canals, but not much standing water on the main road. Tops Supermarket is now accessible.
Minburi, to the North of the airport, is in worse condition. The Saen Saep Canal is flooding some water-side properties, and threatening the market nearby. The flooding under the U-turn Bridge by the canal, seemed deeper and more extensive than last week.
Many outlying areas had a lot of standing water and outside Bang Chak Industrial Estate, a long line of workers were passing sandbags along to strengthen the perimeter wall. The defences outside the Nestlé factory were very impressive.
The Canine View, 25th Oct
Thai people generally are very compassionate towards animals, so it has been no surprise during the flooding, to see people who have had to abandon their homes, carrying their dogs and cats away from danger in baskets or boxes, or on their backs. Yesterday some 600 stray dogs were rescued by volunteers from the flooded compound at Wat Suan Kaew in Nonthaburi (Bangkok Post); it is quite common for Thai temples to serve as a refuge for stray or unwanted animals, and sometimes a protected section of river for the local fish.
Street dogs have to be pretty smart to stay alive, and I saw one yesterday who had found a place of refuge on a ledge, about 1 meter above street level, outside Asoke MRT station. As the authorities have several times suggested that flooding would probably reach 50 - 80cm, this guy was obviously working on instinct or good advice.
If he had wandered down to the Sukhumvit interesetion with Asoke, however, he might have decided that 1 meter was not enough. The Citibank entrance, which I photographed a few days ago, sandbagged against inundation, has now got much more serious defences - see below. In fact the whole Asoke side of the Interchange Building has been closed off, the Soi 23 end is also heavily fortified.
Chao Phraya Flooding, 24th October
Yesterday I took some English friends to Tha Tian, a popular pier on the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok: we were hoping to take the river boat down to Sathorn Pier. The little cafe by the pier was flooded and much of the pier area. From the water level at the little park outside, I would guess that the water level was two feet above the bank at that point.
The fence, now a few yards from the bank, is at a guess 30" high; in the background is Wat Arun. Tha Chang, further up river, was largely dry. I am not sure whether the public river buses were running or not. Certainly the long-tails and other tour boats were doing good business, but we decided not to wait, especially as our feet were already wet. We then saw that someone was handing out plastic bags as temporary foot protection - the Thais are always good at improvising.
Floods Getting Closer, 23rd October
Earlier reports that Bangkok would miss the flooding seem to have been premature. Footage on Thai TV shows flooding in several areas north of the city, including Sam Sen Road and Thammasat University Rangsit Campus. East of the city, authorities are now concerned about the security of Lat Krabang Industrial Estate. Certainly many home and business areas around Lat Krabang take the threat of innundation seriously, many protecting their properties with low walls or sandbags. The right turn bridge at King Kaeo Road, near the airport, was clogged yesterday with parked cars.
Yesterday, I went to Wat Sangkharat by the Prawet-Burirom Canal. The water level has increased over the last couple of days and parts of the outer perimeter of the Wat were flooded. I noticed that the water was moving (the day before it had been static) and later saw that the water gates further East had been opened to let the canal take excess water to the river at Phrakhanong.
Trains to the North East.
Updated 6.30am, 21st October
Apparently some trains are running to the North East. I rang Hua Lam Phong station a couple of days ago and asked if there were trains to Nong Khai and was told "yes". "So isn't Ayutthaya flooded?" I asked - North Eastern trains normally go through Ayutthaya. The assistant said that they were using the Eastern line.
I checked on Google Earth, and found a line which branches off the Eastern Line just North of Chachoengsao, and joins the North Eastern Line at Kaeng Koi Junction, just North of Saraburi (now shown on the map below). According to the lady at Hua Lamphong, the journey is taking a couple of hours longer than usual, but trains are getting through.
Bangkok Floods Updated 17th October
The authorities now say that Bangkok has missed the worst of the flooding as the run-off from the North has now largely passed through, though Minburi, which I visited last week, has been declared a disaster area. Up country, the situation is still pretty bad, especially in Ayutthaya, where several industrial estates and many homes are flooded out. It will take months to clear up the mess.
In Ayutthaya there are thought to be about 100 crocodiles on the loose. The Bangkok Post reports that authorities have issued a 1,000 Baht bounty for each one caught alive (as far as I remember, it was 2,000 Baht in 1995 - dead or alive).
The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department said on Saturday that 297 people were confirmed dead in the floods. The Labour Ministry said that more than 10,000 businesses have been impacted in 15 provinces, affecting over 350,000 workers.
Bangkok's situation is certainly better than it was in the mid nineties, when friends remember taxis floating down Sukhumvit Road. At that time they were widening Soi 3 and renewing the drains: I remember that because a friend of mine fell down a flood covered open drain and emerged minus his expensive hand phone. All cell phones were expensive at that time, around $1,000 as I remember, so he then had to had to dive back in to retrieve it.
Trains still suspended
The Bangkok Post on friday said that train services to the North East, in addition to the North, were now suspended. I have bee checking the SRT's Train Tracking Service for the the last few days and got the impression that trains North East were fairly scarce, though some seemed to be running within the North and North East regions. The announcement on thairailticket.com is unchanged. As the main line North and North East runs straight through Ayutthaya alongside the river, I would expect that it is flooded out. Hope the infrastructure is not too badly damaged: I am hoping to take the train to Udon Thani in a few weeks.
Update 14th October
Yesterday I took a trip around Lat Krabang and Minburi on the outskirts of Bangkok. Lat Krabang road was flooded up to a foot in places near the airport, and in the town up to about 6 inches. Residents had piled sandbags in front of their houses and in some case businesses had protected themselves with a low wall of concrete blocks, with a layer of sandbags behind as with the one below. Several others were under construction.
Several side streets were flooded including both streets leading to Tops supermarket which had about 8 inches of water. Lucky I did not need any shopping. The store itself is set quite high above the street so I doubt if it is in danger.
Tops Soi, Lat Krabang
The high water level seems to have driven the wildlife into the open. I spotted a large lizard (like a miniature Monitor Lizard, around 2 feet long) on the footpath near Tops: he dived into a drain before I could get a shot of him. I saw a similar one near the Paseo shopping center the previous day, but he dived into the miniature fountain.
Around Minburi many fields were flooded though the town itself had less flooding than Lat Krabang except for under the U-turn bridge by the canal. I did see several places near the town where the city government had delived large quantities of sand for people to make their own sandbags - lots of takers too.
Luckily it did not rain much in Bangkok yesterday, but when I got back to the center, I found many precautions in place there as well, including extra barriers around the MRT subway entrances, and sandbags around the Platinum Mall and in front of City Bank at the Sukhumvit-Asoke junction. The ATM machine was particularly well protected.
Updates 13th October
Will central Bangkok flood? A former irrigation chief says probably no, also a spokesman for the BMA; the Bangkok Governor, however, is just not sure. In the mean time police have prepared emergency parking spaces throughout the capital and on Wednesday I saw workmen putting up 6ft high extra protection around the MRT subway stations.
Outside Bangkok, Phathum Thani is in a desperate situation as also are Ayutthaya province and Nakhon Sawan. In all, some 26 provinces are flooded, and six provinces in the South are at risk of land slip and flash flood.
Trains to the North are still suspended and I believe other services are disrupted. If you are booked to travel by train over the next few days, check with the Railway authority first (Hotline 1690). The announcement on thairailticket.com
The crocs who escaped near Uthai Thani were apparently young ones, so not dangerous to humans. However small crocs grow to be big ones. A friend of mine told me that months after the adult escapees from Bangkok's Crocodile Farm in 1995 had been rounded up, he saw the odd youngster cruising the khlongs. The same friend informs me that, according to his local motor-cycle taxi driver, the big day for floods in Bangkok will be tomorrow.
I am told that the boats in Soi Cowboy (see below) were intended as a donation to up-country villages hit by flooding.
Toyota has temporarily suspended production at its three plants in Thailand; the PM has suggested that some provinces could be under water for two months, and The Met Office announced Tuesday that the Rainy Season had almost finished! For these and other flood stories go to:Thailand Travel Blog
Flooding: Train Services suspended
Floods 11th October
Rail services to the North remain suspended due to heavy rain and flooding between Lop Buri and Nakhon Sawan. Passengers who have already booked can get a refund from any railway station.
The main highway North through Ayutthaya is still closed and traffic has been diverted through Suphanburi. The Bangkok Post on Monday quotes an official from Uthai Thani province as saying that the 100 or so crocodiles that escaped from a flooded farm are not dangerous - well that's comforting if you are travelling in that area, but watch out for the floods though.
It reminds me of the flooding in the mid nineties when a colleague of mine, who lived near khlong Phrakhanong, told me that the lower floor of her house was under water and that a large snake had been eating her pet cats. A week into the floods I asked her whether the snake was still a problem. She replied: "No snake. Crocodile eat snake" presumably one of the crocs reported to have escaped from Bangkok's famous Crocodile Farm in Samut Phrakan district.
Floods have also been reported on the outskirts of Bangkok at Nonthaburi, Minburi and Lat Krabang. My desktop weather gadget for the next 3 days is still showing storms, storms, storms, and my local branch of Tesco Lotus Express was very low on fresh produce this morning.
In Bangkok's Soi Cowboy, I see at least one of the bars is prepared for emergency evacuation. The photo below shows two boats, one inside the other, standing outside Cowboy 2.