Business, Finance & Economics

In soaked Bangkok, even the flood shelter is flooded


Along a Bangkok highway, a man slogs through floodwaters en route to an evacuation center at Don Mueang, the Thai capital's domestic airport.


Patrick Winn

It's raining in Bangkok. Hard.

As in horizontal raindrops, car alarms going off and tree branches whipping against the outer walls of my apartment.

Rainfall is the last thing Thailand's capital needs right now. Flooding has proven far worse than officials warned, driving thousands to evacuation centers. Even the headquarters of the government's own response agency -- the Flood Relief Operations Center -- is taking on water by the minute.

Those headquarters double as an evacuation center for roughly 3,500 evacuees. Both operations are run out of the city's domestic airport, called "Don Meuang."

I visited the airport earlier and was fortunate to get in when I did, when floodwaters were only nipping at the edge of the thoroughfare outside.

Hours later, the water had risen so fast that most taxi drivers were too wary to drive into the deluge. At that time, airlines had just suspended inbound flights, but there were still families with baby strollers fresh off airplanes waiting in long taxi queues to get home. The taxis, however, weren't coming. (I made it out by paying a stray motorbike taxi driver an extortionate fee.)

One terminal over, there were far less fortunate families. They'd fled districts flooded neck deep and were resigned to living in a massive tent city.

They too will likely need to flee once more to yet another evacuation center. Though they're safe on an elevated floor, the waters outside will make it increasingly difficult to keep that many displaced families supplied with basic necessities: water, diapers, toiletries and styrofoam boxes of pork and rice.

That the government sent evacuees to a shelter that would soon flood -- and set up its own flood relief center in the same compound -- will not inspire confidence.

Faith in the government's flood relief efforts is already miserably low; roughly 85 percent of Thais polled in mid-October said the Flood Relief Operations Center was unclear about which areas would end up flooded and which would not.

Here's the tent city, set up alongside abandoned ticket counters.

And here's a new arrival to the evacuation center, his pug at the helm of his canoe. He's seen here scolding the dog for trying to take an ill-advised swim.