Tuesday, December 08, 2009

It’s about time I post this…almost a month late.

I took the video posted above, with my Canon digital IXUS 950 IS the early morning of our flood.

The events leading up to all this began with a freak accident in center Thung Lung, around 4 or 5:00 late Thursday afternoon, where a huge, ancient Tamarind tree suddenly succumbed to high winds and driving rain, falling into the street at our small traffic circle.

A very unfortunate young man from Surat Thani province (สุราษฎร์ธานี), who was working and training as a novice teacher at nearby Patongpatankiriwat School, was killed immediately when he was unlucky enough to be at the wrong place at the right time, driving by on his motorcycle when the huge Tamarind tree fell on him.

This sort of news put Thung Lung on the radar screen with the local media, and it was a surprise to Mam and I both to hear Thung Lung mentioned on the 5:00 news.

It took local city workers over two hours to free his body and transfer him to Mor Orr hospital.

The tree, well over a hundred years old according to a resident living on the circle, took several power lines and poles with it when it fell, sending parts of Ban Thung Lung and surrounding villages into a brown out. It also knocked out our ADSL Internet connection.

As the day progressed into early evening, the rains only increased in intensity and we began to hear about local flooding in the nearby villages of Ban Phrue, Phang La, Tha Pho, Thung Mo, and Khlong Hoi Khong.

“It’s coming! I yelled to Mam.”

It’s early Friday morning, November 6, 2009 in Southern Thailand. Late Thursday evening in most areas of the U.S…

It’s been raining consistently every afternoon, between three and four o’clock, for the last week or two.

Beginning Wednesday the rains increased. Very heavy rains in the afternoon and continuing into the night, with almost continuous rain Thursday, beginning in the morning and continuing on into the night and early morning with only short periods of reprieve.

The meteorologists are calling it the "Northeast monsoon."

Why the Northeast, when it’s stuck over Southern Thailand, I’ll never know…never understood or trusted weather forecasters anyway.

The Tong River in our small village was engorged Thursday morning, coming to within six inches or so of the bridge on our main road...

(See pictures of last years flooding by clicking on “THE FLOOD” in the right margin). Even after all-day rains, the bridge remained clear, but with the water wavering just below the lip of the bridge.

I knew a flood was imminent, as I was sure the rains would continue on through the night, but by “Flood,” I meant the bridge would soon be covered with water and impassable as the pictures on my blog link “THE FLOOD” will show.

Mam and I have lived here in Ban Klong Tong Nûea for the past four years and have always been high and dry…until today.

Shortly after falling asleep last night I was awakened by a violent thunderstorm and heavy rains pounding our corrugated metal roof. The sound was deafening. I turned to Mam and said to her, “We’re definitely not going to have school tomorrow because Thung Lung (The village where my school is located) will be flooded.

“Ung..Um,” was all I got before she drifted off again.

Around three in the morning I awoke once again and heard people out on the road talking. Shaking off the sleepiness, I got up to have a look, as people outside talking at three in the morning was a sure sign people were rousing due to rising flood waters.

I wasn’t quite prepared for what I saw when I peeked out our bedroom window though.

First I noticed a large puddle on the path to our house, but other than that I couldn’t see much else around our house.

Flashlights ('Torches to you Chris, I suppose') and headlights were busily interrupting the blackness of the early morning, as across the street from us some of the locals were moving their vehicles and motorcycles to higher ground.

Curious, I went into our adjoining upstairs room where the computer desk is located and glanced out the window looking out on our side yard (The side closest to the Tong River) and all I saw was water.

“Uh oh!” I uttered, rousing Mam from her slumber.

“What? What’s wrong Jeeem?” (Nothing like an Uh oh! to immediately rouse Mam from her sleep, she's a mother you know...).

“Remember when I said I wished we’d have a flood? Well, I got my wish, only it’s a little worse than what I wished for!”

"Uowweee! Mai yak chuah!" (Uowweee! I can't believe it!).

Within minutes we were roaming around the house, wading through ankle deep water downstairs as the flood waters bubbled up through cracks and holes in our concrete floor.

Mam and I had been in a flood before, while living on Soi three in Thung Lung village, so we pretty much knew what to do.

Both of us still groggy with sleep, we quickly got busy carrying things upstairs and setting things up higher so they wouldn’t get damaged by the water. It really sucks doing something like that at three in the morning, but hey, you do what ya gotta do, you know?

Within an hour, we were comfortably nestled upstairs, dry and cozy, Mam watching the flood waters rise from our upstairs vantage point, while I prepared myself another coffee from our mini-kitchen setup Mam had fashioned into a corner of our bedroom.

Mam has this uncanny ability to make any situation comfortable, and this was no exception. She had quickly set up all our downstairs facilities, upstairs...and in a relatively small space, had made things really cozy and neat. That's only one of the many things I love about her.

Thank goodness we still had electricity.

The old Shaman woman across the street told Mam she hadn’t seen a flood this bad in the village for at least twenty years. Then, I suddenly pointed out to Mam that the water in our fore yard was flowing towards the Tong River and not away from it.

When Mam mentioned that to the old woman, she was told the flood waters were coming from the mountain to our south, and not so much from our local Tong river.

As I write this, (I wrote most of this as the actual flood was happening...much to the consternation of my wife) the flood waters are beginning to recede just a bit, most likely due to somebody opening a dam in Hat Yai, because the rains, if anything, have not stopped, and are actually increasing.

Once the T.V. channels woke up, Mam and I learned we were wicked lucky, as other villages were totally inundated. Thung Lung was paralyzed. Phone lines were down and even the cell towers weren't working correctly. We couldn't get a good signal on our mobile phones. At Took's store, Mam learned the water was waist deep in homes along Soi's two, three, and four, as well as behind the local wet market, a low lying area.

All this excitement got me thinking (I do that from time to time…)...

All the times I watched T.V. while living in the states or abroad, I’d see news broadcasts about floods, and think to myself…"Wow, too bad."

I’ve always been a bit morbid when it comes to things like that, wanting to be able to experience the same thing.

To just be there, you know?

Well, possibly you don’t know. Maybe I’m just some sort of weirdo (No comments from the peanut gallery Annie!).

The flood Mam and I experienced on Soi three in Thung Lung village (circa 2006), never entered our house, only coming into the car port, as the house we were renting was built very high off the ground.

But now that we’ve actually been in a severe flood, I’ve noted there are many things you don’t think about while sitting in the comfort of your home watching a flood somewhere else on T.V., the village people all wading around in waist deep (or deeper) water, with broad smiles on their faces…the kids happily splashing about and having the time of their lives.

"Kids..." what it would be like to be a kid again without a care in the world, except where my next candy bar was coming from...

I mean there’s really nothing much you can do about it, except move things about and to higher ground, so why get all bummed out about it…right?

First off, there’s the smell.

The flood waters cover everything on the ground, and with that, they pick up oils, gasoline, kerosene, and other chemicals from inundated garages and junk yards.

Sewers and honey wells back up, animal excrement floats about, and after a few days, bloated carcasses of dead animals float around, eventually getting stuck somewhere in brush…hopefully not near your house.

Secondly there is the issue of water.

Quite often dug wells become contaminated by flood waters, turning what was fairly decent drinking water into cloudy bacterial infestations. Ground water often becomes undrinkable after being contaminated by oils, fuels and solvents. And if your well isn't a gravity feed and you have a well pump, whether your well is contaminated or not, the electricity is usually shut off so you cannot get water from your well.

All it takes is just a few hours without water to begin to understand what an important commodity it is.

Thirdly is the electrical situation.

As the flood waters rise, the electric company (EGAT, the Thailand monopoly) shuts off service to protect people from electrical shock or damage.

Like the water situation, it only takes a few hours to begin to fully appreciate how much we rely on this important utility.

Fourth and last (there’s more, but this posting is lengthy enough) is the clean-up.

One word: Filth!

Cleaning up after a flood is not something for someone with a weak stomach, especially if the flood water has hung around for a few days or weeks.

Then, there is the issue of residual odor. Things smell stale and musty for days or weeks.

Concrete (what the lower floor of our cottage consists of) is like a big sponge. It soaks up the water and takes weeks to dry out…months if the rains continue.

Mam was upset by my incessant cleaning saying it wasn’t necessary, as I first hosed everything down until the water ran clear, then I washed the floor and walls with a cherry scented cleaner, then I followed up with a half-strength solution of Detol® and water, a fairly strong, pine smelling, anti-bacterial.

All I said to her was, “What would you do if your neighbor came over here and pooh-poohed on our floor? Would you just wipe it up with a piece of newspaper?”

It’s been approximately three weeks since our flood, and the concrete floor still hasn’t thoroughly dried, but the musty smell has finally left us.

The meteorologists say the Northeast monsoon has stalled over the insurgent Deep South, including Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat…all of which aren’t really all that far from us.




Jeeem said...


Test! Test!

Test! Test! Test!

Is anyone alive here? Are you all dead?




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