Bangkok’s biggest river’s flooding has swelled to record levels, swamping local tourist attractions and many residential districts. The famed Grand Palace is unreachable. A flood wall was hastily built, but a 10 foot high wall of water is behind it. One of the two airports is flooded, but fortunately the international airport is still open. Panic buying of basic food items has skyrocketed. Many residents are being urged to flee the city. California residents and travelers with travel plans to Asia will want to skip Bangkok as the holiday travel season approaches. This is not a flood that will be gone tomorrow, and nearly 400 people have already died from flood-related events.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra encouraged tourists to stay in beach areas as she asked the country and the international community to offer solutions in their worst floods since 1940. “The crisis we’re facing today is the most critical natural disaster that ever happened in Thai history,” she told reporters. “I’d like to ask for cooperation from everyone that we don’t have political parties, nor political games. We must not be divided.”
In an eerie parallel to New Orleans post-Katrina, there’s no way for the water from recent monsoons to escape. The government is debating proposals to cut through major Bangkok roads to drain ongoing floodwaters that are now threatening northern areas of the capital, as a high tide creeps through riverside communities. Flooding due to massive monsoons has escalated since August and will continue at least another month. The roads in the city’s east side are blocking water flow into the canals that normally drain into the Gulf of Thailand. Bangkok’s auto factories remain flooded.
The USS George Washington was dispatched to Thailand by the U.S. Navy two weeks ago to aid the flood-stricken area. But several ships sent to Bangkok’s coastline and awaiting a chance to offer relief are now departing Thailand after receiving conflicting responses from the Bangkok government, a U.S. government defense official said. Passing on international aid offers may be unwise as flood walls are expected to fail in the coming weeks.
Residents are pessimistic about the likelihood of flood control anytime soon. Crocodiles are being caught in residential areas and many homes are flooded, stranding residents. This has fueled panic buying in local stores and shortages of staples like bottled water, eggs and meat, as the worst floods in memory continue to devastate Bangkok.