Bangkok Floods

“Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1797-8

Things here are beginning to get difficult. One of the most pressing concerns is drinking water. I was due a delivery of three carboys today, but learned yesterday that the company’s facilities have been flooded, and though they have stock, they can’t get it out. I therefore, more in hope than expectation, decided to visit Tesco-Lotus on the perchance they might have a few bottles in stock.

The first obvious sign that things weren’t normal in Bangkok was the sight of thousands of cars, pick-ups, minivans and even buses parked on every stretch of elevated roadway, blocking all but a single lane in each direction. There was barely a gap between them; every available scrap of space was occupied. The chaos that will be caused by such selfish behaviour if there’s a need quickly to evacuate part of Bangkok is unthinkable; and a single broken down vehicle or crash could paralyse the whole area. Particularly disconcerting is the cars parked on overhead U-turns: the roads are now too narrow for larger vehicles to pass.

Traffic was relatively light. In a few places klongs has overflowed onto the roadway, limiting traffic to the outside lanes, but nothing too serious, until I got close to Tesco-Lotus. The U-turn which leads to the store was full of water, perhaps to a depth of 2-3 metres. I had to proceed straight and find somewhere else to U-turn. Then I hit a terrible traffic jam. Four lanes of traffic were funnelled into a single lane approaching an elevated section reduced to a single lane by parked cars. Traffic was barely moving. Fortunately, there was a U-turn gap in the central reservation just a couple of hundred metres ahead, though it took me a good half hour to reach it. The returning carriageway was badly flooded, with cars restricted to the outer lane with water perhaps a foot deep. Pick-ups and trucks happily plunged through the deeper inner lanes sending great plumes of foul water into the air.

As I approached Tesco-Lotus I heard on the wireless that Tesco-Lotus had announced that it was closing its stores because of supply difficulties. There was a certain trepidation as I approached the store entrance: would it be locked? If not, would the shelves be bare?

It wasn’t locked, though there were plenty of empty stretches on the shelves. Unsurprisingly, there were no bottles of water to be had. Dried noodles had also disappeared. Vegetables were in very short supply, apart from the crazy ones like celery which only mad foreigners eat. In fact, most of the vegetables that remained had been marked down – presumably in preparation for the store’s imminent closing. Rather to my surprise, the supply of meat and fish was pretty much as normal.

I stocked up on tinned fruit, tinned nuts, bottles of fizzy pop, packets of crisps. I can do “the healthy thing” after the threat of flooding subsides.

***

The whole uncertainty of the current situation is pretty unbearable. Estimates for my area range from flooding to a depth of 10-20 cm (which would barely lap at my driveway) to 1 to 1½ metres. “Peak Water” has changed from the middle of last week, to last weekend, to tomorrow, to next weekend. The worst affected areas were expected to be to the east and west of Bangkok, but the north and the areas next to the Chao Phraya river now seem to be the critical areas. Who to believe? What to expect? STC captured the feeling rather well in the same poem:

“Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.”

[567]

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