Bangkok evacuees wait in squalid conditions for flood waters to recede

November 06, 2011

KAZUTO TSUKAMOTO / Correspondent

BANGKOK--As flood waters continue to inundate central parts of Thailand's capital, thousands of people are rushing to find shelter, in some cases huddling under structures such as elevated expressways.

Countless people have had to flee the torrent carrying only what they could on their backs. Many said they were forced to leave their possessions at their deluged homes.

But finding an evacuation shelter is no guarantee of safety as flood waters continue to encroach.

According to the Bangkok municipal government, a total of 436 shelters had been set up in schools as of Nov. 4, but 23 were forced to close after being flooded.

The city estimated that more than 11,000 people had been forced to evacuate.

The gymnasium at Chulalongkorn University in central Bangkok was filled with spaces covered with mosquito nets that resembled tiny tents.

Giant electric fans were set up to provide some comfort to the 540 evacuees who had to endure the sweltering heat without air conditioning.

"Many of the evacuees have lost their homes and family and are in shock," said Pirom Kamolratanakul, president of Chulalongkorn University.

Sriphen Boonkong, a 63-year-old evacuee from Nonthaburi province, near Bangkok, said she fled her condominium on the first floor of a five-story building on Oct. 27 and came to Chulalongkorn.

She said flood waters quickly reached up to the second floor as she waited out the flooding on higher ground. Unable to return, Boonkeng said she had only 200 baht (about 500 yen) in her pocket.

Boonkong also lost her livelihood. Just six months ago, she had set up a stall selling chicken soup.

"I just want to go home when the water recedes," Boonkong said.

Unable to find a government-prepared shelter close to their homes, some residents have had to rough it out.

In the Lak Si district of northern Bangkok, residents have sought refuge underneath an elevated highway that has been spared flooding so far.

There, evacuees spread straw mats on the concrete and wait for food to be brought in by relief workers.

Conditions are far from ideal. The nearest toilet is a portable latrine about 1 kilometer away. Evacuees are lucky if they shower once every few days.

There is an overpowering stench at this makeshift shelter.

One evacuee, Arthit Pansudae, had both legs bandaged. When asked what had happened, Pansudae said he had been bitten while trying to wade through a flooded street.

The doctor who treated him said he was probably bitten by a crocodile.

"All I could take with me from my home were two shirts and two pairs of pants. I don't know when I can return to work, and I'm at a loss over what to do from here on," he said.

KAZUTO TSUKAMOTO / Correspondent
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Evacuees take shelter under an elevated highway near a canal in the Lak Si district of Bangkok on Nov. 4. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

Evacuees take shelter under an elevated highway near a canal in the Lak Si district of Bangkok on Nov. 4. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

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  • Evacuees take shelter under an elevated highway near a canal in the Lak Si district of Bangkok on Nov. 4. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)
  • A volunteer talks with an elderly evacuee inside a shelter in Bangkok. (Toshiyuki Hayashi)

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