Thailand: On the road through a flood stricken land
The main evacuation center at Bangkok’s Thammasat University is crowded. Some people are lining up at registration tables; others are receiving cooked meals.
In the main hall, mattresses and blankets are laid across the floor – we’re told many people sleep here but exact numbers are hard to get.
We travel across the university campus to a large football stadium where some 200 migrant workers and their families are taking shelter – the floods have served to further marginalize migrant workers and their families.
Save the Children is working with local partners to ensure all families affected – including migrants – receive equal treatment during this emergency.
10: 30 AM
Heading further north to Ayutthaya, we drive by men standing in the middle of the submerged road, casting their fishing nets while trucks splash by in the opposite lane.
Looking from the window I see families steering their narrow boats closer and closer to the highway, while trucks crowded with food supplies and volunteers push steadily through the water to the evacuation centers.
Driving past the few dry patches along the highway, we see makeshift dwellings and tents housing evacuees who haven’t made it to the centres.
Now at another centre in Ayutthaya, the smells of curry waft through the air as volunteers ladle food into bags, serving a long line of families waiting for their meal.
People who do not live in the evacuation centres arrive by boat, daily, to the food distribution center to get food supplies to take back to the village.
The government is making huge efforts to deliver dry foods to flood-affected areas through trucks and air-drops.
We’re helping to fill the gaps by providing food by boat to reach families unable to get to the centers. A government official we speak to says the evacuation center will be open for at least the coming month.
He explains that they are trying to address the needs of mothers and small children affected by the floods.
People who need help are encouraged to call government hotlines – but with electricity down in many areas, communications have become increasingly difficult for people used to relying on their mobile phones.
We meet one older evacuee who tells us of having to move all his belongings to the second floor of his building. Living in the centre of Ayutthaya, he expected some seasonal flooding but with minimal impact.
He was surprised when the sandbags didn’t hold and Ayutthaya flooded to his chest. He has been at the evacuation center for four days, and doesn’t know when he’ll return.
Sleeping outside, he tells us “I don’t want to burden the government,” as he waits to see if his home and belongings have survived the flood.
Another government official we meet with relates challenges they’re facing: there aren’t enough floating toilets to meet demand, or enough boats and life jackets for villagers in submerged areas.
They’re having trouble accessing some of the more flooded areas like Wat Chujit temple, where 800 – 1,000 people have taken shelter.
Earlier in the day we also heard of temples and centers in Ang Thong province where a large number of unaccompanied children are staying even before the flooding. The road to Ang Thong is currently unpassable.
We cross the street to an adjacent evacuation centre, an unfinished three story building where an estimated 3,200 people are staying.
Several local corporations and businesses have set up tents to provide food and other services. There are also activities and games for being run for younger children.
The kids we speak to have been having fun playing games, but miss their home and their friends. 7 year-old Farm tells us “I miss home, but I can’t go home.”
She has been at the evacuation center for over a week. Pond, an 8 year-old boy, says: “I have been here three days, I don’t know when I will go home. School will open soon, I don’t know if I can go to school or not.”
Save the Children is working to provide some normalcy for children like Pond who have been plunged into an unfamiliar environment, without their friends and regular activities, like going to school.
This post was written on 16 October after a field visit on 15 October by Brian Jungwiwattanaporn. Brian is the Regional Crossborder Programme Information Coordinator for Save the Children