The Great Flood of Thailand 2011

Not every trip has to be leisure, and not every business trip has to be boring. In 2011, Thailand experienced its worse flooding in history. Starting from July, the flooding reached its highest level in September before receding. However, some flooding still persisted until January 2012. We were asked by several factories in Thailand to assess the damage to their equipment for the purpose of salvage and insurance claims, but we could only go in December 2011 when the flood waters had subsided to a safe level.

Well, this was my first time going into a disaster zone and I packed basically emergency gear like torchlight, first aid kit, Swiss army knife, etc. Since I was going to be walking through flooded streets, I just wore a bermudas and Crocs for the survey. Going with me on this trip were 2 other colleagues.

We landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport which was not affected by the flood and were met by our Thai business partners who took us to the affected factories for the survey. The affected factories are 60km north of Bangkok and located in several industrial estates near Ayuthayya.

Passing by Don Muang Airport in the north of Bangkok. The airport was still flooded and closed to aircraft.
Passing by Don Muang Airport in the north of Bangkok. The airport was still flooded and closed to aircraft.

In the video above: Bangkok residents resort to parking their cars on the overpass to save their vehicles from the flood. Some of them are even living on the overpass temporarily.

The cleaning up work was in progress and you can see the workers taking a break. The boat was still needed about a week ago as the flood water had not subsided yet.
The cleaning up work was in progress and you can see the workers taking a break. The boat was still needed about a week ago as the flood water had not subsided yet.
That's me with the water mark on the wall showing the highest level of flooding here. It's around 2m high and this picture was taken on raised ground.
That’s me with the water mark on the wall showing the highest level of flooding here. It’s around 2m high and this picture was taken on raised ground.
Cleaning up the mess after being soaked in flood water for almost 3 months.
Cleaning up the mess after being soaked in flood water for almost 3 months.
We passed by one of the factories located on lower ground. The water basically flooded one and a half floors.
We passed by one of the factories located on lower ground. The water basically flooded one and a half floors.

It is a surreal experience to see a disaster on the news and then to experience it yourself first hand. Seeing the scale of the damage was mind boggling. As bad this first area was affected, we were told that the next area we would be visiting was even worse, and the hardest hit by the floods. Some areas were still impassable to cars because the roads were still flooded.

We drove further north to Rojana where most of the automobile car makers were located. We could see that some low lying areas were still underwater. The industrial estate looked like a war zone with piles of sandbags lining the fences and entrances to factories. Every building and structure was covered in a brown film of dried mud.

The road became impassable except to larger vehicles like trucks and buses.
The road became impassable except to larger vehicles like trucks and buses.
Abandoned inventory from factories was dumped everywhere.
Abandoned inventory from factories was dumped everywhere.
We had to walk in since our car couldn't make it through. I could see fish swimming in the water that was flooding the road.
We had to walk in since our car couldn’t make it through. I could see fish swimming in the water that was flooding the road.
Where is the ATM? Either it got carried away by the flood, or someone stole it.
Where is the ATM? Either it got carried away by the flood, or someone stole it.
Keeping your motorcycles dry. But I wonder how they got the bikes up there?
Keeping your motorcycles dry. But I wonder how they got the bikes up there?
This factory was submerged for more than 3 months. The water level here is more than 2m.
This factory was submerged for more than 3 months. The water level here is more than 2m.
The factory had no power and we were stumbling around in the dark looking out for poisonous snakes and crocodiles hiding in the nooks and crannies, while surveying the damaged equipment.
The factory had no power and we were stumbling around in the dark looking out for poisonous snakes and crocodiles hiding in the nooks and crannies, while surveying the damaged equipment.
After the survey was completed, we drove to the Honda factory. You can see some of the cars that didn't make it to safety.
After the survey was completed, we drove to the Honda factory. You can see some of the cars that didn’t make it to safety.

As I left Bangkok after this trip, I thought to myself that we do have a lot to be grateful for that we don’t suffer such natural disasters in Singapore. The Thai people are also resilient and did not let this set back dampen their spirits. Everywhere I could see that they were bouncing back and setting to the task of rebuilding their homes and lives.

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