Saturday, January 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Thai Flood

If you follow the international news, you know that parts of Thailand were deluged from October through December. I'm not sure the scope of this mess is appreciated, however. The total damage is estimated to be over $50,000,000,000. For reference, hurricane Katrina boasts an $80,000,000,000 figure. Consider, though, that Thailand is nowhere near as wealthy as the U.S., and the flood affected a large % of the Thai populace.

I've been through a couple major earthquakes and a fire. Floods are different, I can now say. In the recent case, at least, the water continually rose over a period of a month. First, the water creeps up to the level of the road. Then I found myself bicycling through a foot or more of water to get to the University. When the water began to enter the house, it was time to find a new dwelling. Like many others, I assumed it would just be a week before I could return, so I didn't bother to move my refrigerator, washing machine, etc., upstairs. Other folks fared worse, leaving their cars and motorcycles behind. Three weeks later, I returned in a "long tail" boat to survey the damage. In a village of 100's of townhouses, I saw maybe three faces. Inside the house, black, stagnant water. I had been told that the village management would turn off all electrical power...I discovered this was not true when I interacted with my refrigerator, floating, but tethered by the electrical cord.

All my previous experiences with long tail boats were in paradise, Southern Thailand. And, in fact, the one hour sojourn was quite pleasant, winding through palm trees and abandoned properties. I had to laugh.

Vandalism was being reported, so I pulled my hard drive and other valuables. Apparently, a crocodile was caught in the village.

Then, as the water recedes, the aforementioned events play out in reverse. The symmetry is broken, however, by death (my plants!) and filth that wasn't there a few months prior. It turns out that children's items are particularly floaty...thus a huge stash of shoes and plastic toys in my corner of the village. A pink plastic hobby horse with wheels. Large stuffed animals, including a smiling tortoise. The requisite tire. Endless plastic bags, garden pots, bottles, etc.

My camera was also a victim, so I regret that I can't show you the tortoise happily surveying the damage. My new camera can only capture the latter stages of this mess.

Snail eggs, stuck to my wall. It's amazing how fast these buggers, a bit bigger than ordinary escargot, propagate, infiltrate, and die.

Above is my lovely sewer. Over a couple of months, fish invaded every conceivable space. Now they're floundering around in whatever water they can find. This one's dead, but there are living specimens in that filth as well. See the pink toy?

My only surviving tree. Everything else is dead, including a mango that produced exactly one exceedingly delicious fruit in its life.

It wasn't advertised, but apparently these homes come with self-cleaning walls...exposure to the water causes everything to peel off. The dirt on the washing machine gives you an idea of its position as it floated around the interior. Unlike my refrigerator, it still works.


Everyone, including me, observes that 2011's rainfall didn't seem much heavier than 2010's. There are 100 theories as to why this disaster occurred. As things go in Thailand, it's unlikely that a clear picture will ever emerge, particularly if some important people are to blame. Some blame the minister of the interior for his decisions regarding management of dams in Northern Thailand. The idea is that poor choices were made in the name of populist politics, aiming to please the farmers in the northeast of Thailand by retaining excess volumes of water. If so, the cost of a few folks' politically-motivated resource management decisions is almost inconceivable.

Though there's no evidence for it in this case, I note that Thai politicians are very much in the habit of timing events and making decisions based on astrology, numerology, feng shui, etc. I wonder if superstition played any role in this monstrous mess.

1 comment:

NamChaa said...

Hi there Ken;
How have you been, besides the flooded house? I got to experience Thai flood myself. My first floor apartment was totally flooded, I had to climb through the window to get to my room and got my important documents out. My lab was totally ruined, so were my course materials and other stuffs. I got 3 books left to teach for this semester, but it 's gonna be my last semester here in Thailand though.Seeing it in a positive way, it took away my burden of moving stuff when I relocate.

Take care;