Lies or Incompetence – Bangkok Floods
The various arms of the Thai authorities have been doing an excellent job of keeping the people of Bangkok informed about the flood risk.
14/Sep The Irrigation Department “remains confident the capital is safe”
12/Oct “Bangkok should be safe” – Prime Minister Yingluck
14/Oct “The floods threatening Bangkok are now under control and water levels are starting to fall” – Prime Minister Yingluck
17/Oct “Bangkok is safe, with the much-feared mass of water runoff from the North having moved past the capital, flood prevention agencies say”
17/Oct “Bangkok is not yet safe from the flooding” – Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra
18/Oct “Bangkok residents should not panic as the capital will not be flooded” – Director of the Flood Relief Operation Centre
18/Oct “The capital could be hit by floods tomorrow, as a large volume of northern runoff has been flowing into Khlong Rangsit” – Bangkok Governor
(All quotations taken from The Bangkok Post.)
Then there was the false alarm fiasco. On 14 October the Science and Technology Minister issued a flood evacuation alert for northern Bangkok saying that runoff from the north had burst through a sluice gate saying:
“Rush to Don Meuang immediately. The government can’t tell how many hours are left.” Panic ensued. Except the sluice gate was actually fine.
He later said:
“Don’t panic, Bangkok residents. Bangkok is 100% safe.”
With such inconsistent information, who knows where the truth lies?
Personally, I was feeling fairly confident of keeping my feet dry until yesterday. I live inside the protective barrier surrounding central Bangkok – a network of elevated roads, barriers rivers and canals that is intended to keep the capital safe. Areas to the north and east of Bangkok, outside the barrier are already flooded. Then came the announcement of seven out of 50 Bangkok districts are “at high risk of flooding”. Seven out of 50 doesn’t sound too bad until you realised they represent 40% of Bangkok’s area. It sounds particularly bad when you realise that you live in one of them. The prediction for here is flooding to a depth of 1 to 1.2 metres. It seems that some of the flood water coming from the north is to be diverted via a canal which runs close to my house, into the protected zone, right across Bangkok and into the Chao Phraya River which will take it out to sea. The logic of this rather escapes me: what is the purpose of the protective barrier if not to protect?
One is left with a feeling that the powers that be aren’t incompetent or lying – they’re both.