Bangkok is growing rapidly like a classic tale of urbanization. In the city, new residential apartment, office buildings and shopping malls are expanding and replacing small commercial estates along the street, like these ones in my ‘hood. The building in the background is a new luxury apartment whereas small shops in the foreground are half abandoned. Just the matter of time they will be demolished. Inside the loose fence is a cleared area waiting to be developed. The fence doesn’t protect anyone to get in or, putting a real estate ads or hanging a pair of pants.
Thung Song Hong was just a few kilometres from my old neighbourhood, Sikan. I passed the area almost almost everyday. Somehow, it was part of my growing up.
Last week, we, the same volunteers I was with in Sai Mai, went for a mission to distribute flood relief packs. The head of the community asked a friend for help then the other friend organised with the Thai Red Cross Society. We took 200 packs, 100 of water packs and some rice from the Red Cross which was quite enough for the request.
However, it was hard to ignore the victims of the disaster along the way to the rendezvous. For instance, these ladies we picked up happened to live in the same estate as the mission we were going to but their group was not on the list. They had to wait until we finished our obligation then we could spare the rest.
But there was a special treat for them. We took one of the boats on the truck and made a home delivery, going along with them. And that was filmed until I stopped the camera because I was conscious about the bettery I had left on the Flip camera I got from work to test during the weekend.
After I turn the camera off, we got to Auntie’s house and she had to climb on my shoulders to get off the boat. Then to the other women’s where around 20 people stayed together on the high floors. I could see a wheelchair on the balcony which they mentioned a sick person.
I lived around that area for the most of my life and it was heart-wrenching moment to see it was inundated. To be honest, I had never see anything like this before. They still smiled and joked about their lives. But that could be the only thing that drove them to go on.
Thailand is facing the worst floods crisis in decades. Thai Government and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration are trying very hard to protect the inner city from the deluge. Its northern districts: Don Mueang and Sai Mai are the first to get affected.
A group of friends got a truck from a contact and we went to Sai Mai and volunteer to move people around in the area. Even though the water was only 10 cm high in some spots on Sukhaphiban 5 Road and Sai Mai Road, public transport was rare. We started to pick up people from Wongsakorn Market and the end of Sai Mai Road to dropped them off at the other end of the road where there was a coordination point and the army trucks take them to Saphan Mai, where the main local commercial centre was.
We took another run on Sai Mai Road and decided to go to Saphan Mai via Ram Intra and Phahol Yothin Road to see if the truck could be helpful. The water increased along the way up the road and reached about 50 cm in the businesss centre. Some shops built flood gates to protect their properties but you could see it was too little and too late for some. The bus could not go further than the bridge. People had to rely on trucks from the army, the air force and volunteers to commute from shopping centres to their places. People still had their needs to come to here whether as the next stop for evacuation or for supplies for their homes as they decided to stay. In fact, on the first run on Sai Mai Road, the most asked question was whether we would go all the way to Saphan Mai but we were not sure then since we could not assess the situation until we got to the coordination point.
Once we crossed the bridge, leaving the business area for Bhumiphol Hospital, the road became a canal with 50-70 cm height of water level. Some cars and motorcycles were left inundated. When we got to the hospital, there were not many people left since it had been closed a few days earlier. Stranded people in the front wanted to go back to Saphan Mai and a truck from a big estate development picked them up. So we decided to go the other way, making a loop back to Sai Mai Road. Most people we got along the way were from within the air force base complex.
The deepest flooded path was about almost 100 cm on Chantharu Beksa Road. At this points onwards, there were people with fish nets along the way. When we were back at the coordination point in Sai Mai, there was a vendor selling fish. And they were big ones. People were still on the truck here as we would go through Sai Mai Road and Sukhaphiban 5 Road for the last run for the day.
My estimate, there were about 300-400 people we served for the whole day run from 10am to 7pm with the distance of 70.6 km. at the end of the day, I got exhausted and sunburnt on the arms and the back of the neck. But the genuine reactions from the people we offer our hands was just worth it.