Bangkok Floods: Post-Flood Recovery and Restoration of Inundated AIT Campus; AIT Academic Program Re-started on December 5, 2011.
On the occasion of the 84th anniversary of King’s birthday on December 5, 2011, His Majesty the King of Thailand called upon all Thai people and residents to unite in the common cause of rapid recovery from the devastating floods and implement efforts for future flood prevention.
I am following the post-flood events in Thailand with great interest and I admire the timely call of the Royal Thai family for unity to deal with the national flood crisis and flood aftermath restoration efforts.
The AIT administration had continued its non-stop effort to restore the AIT primary campus and resume the academic program. The following photo compares the pre-flood condition and post-flood inundation at AIT campus before flood water started receding, November 7, 2011. (credit: Professor Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai).
The AIT administration embarked upon two major fronts to deal with the flood aftermath using excellent crisis management plans. The following summary of the AIT effort is based on my meetings and observations:
- Restoration of AIT Academic Program at Temporary Campus in Hua Hin: Based on the desire of students and their families, most faculty and staff, as well as many alumni, arrangements were made to relocate AIT academic programs on three university sites in Hua Hin. This timely action has kept faculty and staff on working status so that there was no interruption in their monthly income which most of these folks appreciated. Students were able to return to their classes on December 5, 2011 which was remarkable considering logistics challenges.
- Restoration of AIT Permanent Campus in Pathum Thani: Restoration efforts started after pumping out all flood water from the AIT campus in the first week of December 2011. This was possible with the help of all AIT resident community, alumni, and friends on volunteer basis in addition to the paid staff. The campus wide cleaning commenced on December 10-11 and is still continuing. See more details on AIT web site.
Dr. Uddin’s Brief Visit to Bangkok; tour of AIT’s permanent and temporary campus sites; interaction with AIT community: I arrived in Bangkok on 13th December night and immediately started meeting AIT folks and observing the AIT administration efforts as outlined above. I also participated in other related post-flood activities on the invitation of AIT President Professor Said Irandoust. Some of my notable observations include:
- Recognizing Dedicated AIT Folks – I wish to recognize VP Professor Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai for leading the overall coordination and organization of the cleaning and restoration campaign at AIT permanent campus site in Pathum Thani near Bangkok, Thailand, which started on December 10 and is continuing through the third week of December. The efforts of Dr. Tien in mobilizing alumni support and relief fund drives are imperative for AIT success to normalcy on temporary campus sites. We must appreciate the behind-the-scene dedicated support and leadership of AIT President and management team that overcame the challenges of the flood crisis and commenced teaching on December 5, 2011.
- Cleaning and Inspecting Buildings at AIT Permanent Campus – I will join the cleaning effort on December 19 at AIT campus where I will also inspect selected buildings for flood water damage and environmental hazard. I intend to inspect School of Management (SOM) building on the request of Dean Barbara Igel and Geoinformatics/Disaster Response Center’s building, as well as some laboratory buildings. I will use these data to train AIT folks in flood damage assessment methodology and formulate a decision support system to identify rehabilitation and prioritize campus infrastructure assets for long-term flood protection.
- Recognizing AIT Faculty, Staff, and Students in Hua Hin Facilities – Through the courtesy of AIT President and administration team, I visited current AIT temporary campus sites in Hua Hin, Thailand. Most AIT students were able to return to their classes on December 5 which was possible only with lots of hardships and sacrifices of the faculty, staff, and students by establishing temporary academic facilities and residences in Hua Hin.
- Meeting with AIT Stakeholders – I had the privilege of participating in several AIT stakeholders meetings through the courtesy of AIT President during December 14-16. These included: alumni meeting in Bangkok on 14th December, Faculty meeting at temporary campus of Silpakorn University (SU) on 15th December, and student leaders meeting in Stamford International University (SIU) in Hua Hin on 16th December, as well meeting with Deans and management team.
- Dedicated AIT Faculty, Staff, and Students – I also met student service staff and visited class rooms. These AIT folks had one thing in common –pride in serving students and making up the precious time lost in teaching due to the closure of AIT permanent campus during the flood disaster. For example, this was evident during my conversation with Professor Nitin Afzulpurkar, Dean of the AIT School of Engineering and Technology (SET). He told me that the faculty, staff, students worked untiringly to salvage equipment and furniture from the permanent campus using boats. They moved computers, class room furniture, and students records to SIU. Now the SET’s 45 faculty and about 1000 students (including over 900 graduate MS and PhD students) are housed in remodeled space on SIU’s second and third floors and in the auditorium.
- Visit to AIT Classrooms in Hua Hin – I visited SIU classrooms including the Transportation System class on 16th December taught by Dr. Kunawee Kanitpong, AIT transportation faculty, during a student group presentation (see photo). This class had mostly Thai graduate students and Intl. graduate students from Nepal and Africa. The flood disaster provides a wonderful opportunity for AIT’s outstanding faculty/student resources to take the lead in research projects related to mobility during disasters, restoration of infrastructure, and flood mitigation efforts. Dr. Kanitpong is a member of the International Editorial Board of the International Journal of Pavements which is published from Brazil and I serve as its Chief Editor.
Dr. Uddin’s Note: Currently, I am visiting Bangkok to have a first hand review of AIT temporary campus sites in Hua Hin and participate in cleaning effort and inspection of buildings at the AIT campus in Pathum Thani near Bangkok, Thailand. On 20th December I will brief the AIT President’s rebuilding committee on the U.S. experience and innovative technologies for infrastructure flood protection.
The AIT and ASEAN Affairs, in collaboration with the University of Mississippi CAIT, are hosting a symposium on 21st December in Bangkok on “Lessons Learned from the 2011 Thailand Flood Disaster and Future Directions for Flood Prevention and Mitigation”. I will lecture on the use of airborne LIDAR technology for flood disaster prevention and other infrastructure applications.
I am taking this opportunity to contribute my family’s personal donation and funds collected and donated by the University of Mississippi ITE Student Chapter for AIT Flood Relief Fund.