Bangkok Sinking, Flood Water Rising, and National Disaster Declared in Thailand

Bangkok Sinking, Torrential Rainfall Covering Vast Land, Flood Water Rising, and Disaster Threatening Communities, Industries, and Educational Institutions In and Around Bangkok, Thailand as of October 21, 2011. National Disaster Declared:

Just like New Orleans which is located below sea level on the U.S. Gulf Coast, much of the Bangkok metropolis – the capital megacity of Thailand along Chao Phraya River is below the sea level and sinking at the rate of 1.5-5.0 cm each year. Recent torrential rainfall and rising flood levels are threatening the lives of millions of people.


As of October 15, 2011 a total of 297 deaths are blamed on torrential rainfall covering vast land of central Thailand. National disaster has been declared by the Thai government. Due to the five major tropical storms in Thailand early this year, the rainfall and runoff volume is enormous close to a 100 years return period. The current flow rate of the flood of Chao Phraya River in Nakorn Sawan Province has reached 5,000 cu.m./sec (432 million cu.m. per day), the highest ever recorded in the past nearly 50 years. Apparently, ten out of the 26 provinces are affected. About 2 million people are displaced. Manufacturing hubs of central provinces are destroyed. a total of 930 factories nationwide have been destructed. The cost of the disaster may rise to as much as 120 billion baht ($3.9 billion). A U.S. C-130 transport plane carrying thousands of sandbags and 10 Marines landed at Don Muang airport yesterday to support the aid effort. China and Japan are actively helping too.

The Royal Thai Government tries to protect Bangkok from floods, a megacity of 9.7 million people. So all the 1,500 million cu. m of flood water has to be redirected using a network of khlongs (canals) to the three provinces around Bangkok in the course of ten days. Ayudhaya and Pathumthani provinces are the front lines of defense for Bangkok and these areas are now inundated with 2-3 meters of floodwater. Several industrial sites and towns are already devastated. Three higher education institutions spread over an area of 800 Acres are threatened from rising floodwater.
More info is available about one university campus, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT).

Credit: Guardian, Businessweek, Dr. Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai of AIT, Dr. Bala of Griffith University

Photo shows AIT Campus inundated by 2-3 m flood water on October 21, 2011 (courtesy of Dr. Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai of AIT).

Flood maps of the affected areas using satellite imageries are available from the web site of International Charter – SPACE AND MAJOR DISASTERS.

Dr. Uddin’s Notes: Unfortunately, the next disaster after these extreme flood events in Bangkok region will follow when the flood water recedes. The U.S. flood risk reduction research and disaster mitigation experience indicates that recovery and mitigation efforts took several months after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina flooding of New Orleans on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The situation is even more catastrophic in Bangkok region. I am concerned about my alma mater — AIT where I completed my M.S. degree. For example, ground all around AIT campus is saturated and soil is predominantly soft clay. It will take longer to drain even if the water level recedes and sewage contaminant will bring environmental nightmare. Water supply mainline may rupture/leak and that water may be contaminated. All towns, industrial areas, and educational institutions in and around Bangkok should prepare for the worst flood aftermath scenarios for months to come. The post flood recovery and mitigation efforts should be the priority on urgent basis at this stage including drinking water supply for use over next few month, etc.

The AIT administration did a superb job of following a good emergency evacuation plan to take care of faculty, staff, and students. Are they preparing for this flood aftermath because they were not adequately ready for possible flood inundation of the entire campus (see photo of AIT main admin building flooded) and most of their efforts was to strengthen levees around the campus. Million-dollar laboratory facilities and other infrastructure assets may be under floodwater and ruined if the building entrances were not protected by inflatable seals. These devices were used successfully by the Mississippi casino owners in Tunica to protect their buildings from recent Mississippi River flooding.

Credit: Dr. Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai, AIT, Bangkok, Thailand

4 thoughts on “Bangkok Sinking, Flood Water Rising, and National Disaster Declared in Thailand”

  1. After Flooding in Thailand, Now Turkey Shaken…….
    Not long after the 2011 Virginia earthquake, Turkey was shaken with an earthquake of 7.2 magnitude on 23 October 2011 and several aftershocks.

    “A 7.2 magnitude temblor hits the eastern Anatolian city of Van, creating massive damage and possibly taking 270 lives.”

    Happening of natural disasters is inevitable. What we call a “disaster” is the natural tendencies of Mother Nature. But, does this mean that we are bound to suffer each time?

    The answer is “No”. We must initiate adjusting our vulnerability to disasters. We do not lack information, or data, or the know-how. Yet, humanity will keep on suffering after every natural disaster, as long as proper mitigation actions are not taken on nation-wide scale.

    I will contribute a post on the Turkish earthquake.

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