Southern Thailand Flooding Wreaks Havoc After Torrential Downpour

Southern Thailand Flooding Wreaks Havoc After Torrential Downpour

The situation became severe in January 2017 as increased rainfall became torrential, causing severe flooding across twelve provinces in Southern Thailand. This is the worst flooding that Thailand has seen in thirty years, causing more damage and destruction than even the 2011 floods.

The twelve affected provinces are as follows; Chumphon, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Patthalung, Songkhla, Trang, Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat, Krabi, Ranong and Prachuap Khiri Khan. At least 91 deaths have been reported as of the 2nd February; 4 persons are still stated as missing and the evacuation of 65,000 individuals has occurred across the provinces. It has been revealed that a total of 590,000 households and 1,800,000 people have been affected in the Southern regions.

 Nakhon Si Thammarat province was the most severely hit by the flooding, where rainfall was measured as high as 700 milimetres in Maung district and over 400 milimetres in other districts. Thai average rainfall in the southern regions is usually about 132 mllimetres, making this over five times the regular amount of rainfall in this period. The monsoon season usually begins in August and ends October, however this year the rain has continued to fall for much of January, an unusual precedent.

 During the days following the downpour, it was reported that the flooding had also damaged 70 government installations, 270 drains, 126 weirs, two reservoirs, 4,314 roads, 348 bridges and 2,336 schools. One particular incident of flash flooding washed out a bridge on the country’s main north-south highway alongside several others, backing up traffic for 200 km (125 miles). Many rivers; such as the Ta Pi River; flooded its embankments and nearby communities, forcing them to evacuate to higher ground.

Organised chaos at the distribution site. Photography by Sarawut Tummati.

 In addition to structural damage, farmland and supply yields have been compromised. Southern Thailand is home to many rubber plantations, yielding much of the world’s rubber supplies, and the expected yield for 2016-2017 is 10% lower because of the flooding. Close to 1 million rai of farmland has been destroyed by the continual rainfall and prolonged flooding. Of that figure, more than 990,000 rai were crop plantations, 39,000 rai were livestock farms, and 19,000 rai grass plots.

 Currently, much of floodwaters have been drained and relief efforts have been carried out in affected areas thanks to the joint efforts of the Military, Government and NGOs working in the sector. More than 70 water pumps and 50 jet propulsion machines were installed to discharge water to the sea, and local army bases have been providing vehicles and manpower for rescue operations; many houses have also been relocated to prevent additional flooding. Subsequently, it is estimated that 897,000 farm animals have been evacuated; 480,000 kilograms of animal feed distributed and 14,000 animals received medical treatment.

 The National Command Centre for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation is evaluating areas that flood repeatedly and the overall risk in the southern region. They hope to improve the current monitoring and prevention system, which includes remodeling warning and evacuation systems, as well as equipment and shelter for when flooding occurs. At this time, 251.37 million baht in donations has been received to assist those in crisis and the government is still welcoming additional funds.

Foodkits delivered to victims in crisis.

Handing out food packages to families on the ground.

The emergency response by ADRA Thailand was implemented in Prasang, Cahiburi & Vieng-Sra District, Surathani Province Thailand. Initial assessments by Phuket Mission Hospital indicated the greatest needs of affected communities were food and water. It was announced that ADRA Thailand & Phuket Mission Hospital would deliver food aid to these areas in Sai Khueng, Prasang District; Songprak, Chaiburi District and Tung Luang, Vieng Sra District. The response was split into stages; with two distributions. Distribution one was carried out to 218 families in Prasang & Chaiburi District and distribution two for 260 families in Vieng-Sra District. The areas selected for ADRA intervention were decided by working with the Mission Hospital and local authorities to narrow down the sub-districts, and subsequent villages most overwhelmed by the flooding. Families chosen to receive support were recommended by village chiefs of the predetermined villages, who assessed by location the worst situated homes and selected accordingly.

 The bureau of meteorology has indicated less rain for the coming weeks, and families are returning to their homes to start the cleanup. The flood situation remains critical in five provinces; however rehabilitation efforts have already begun in several cities, namely Ranong, Krabi, Trang, Chumphon, Prachuap, Khiri Khan, Yala and Narathiwat. The inundated areas will have flood waters diverted and stored in catchments to be used in the dry season. Homeowners will be entitled up to 250,000 baht depending on the degree of damage and a home repair program will be run by soldiers and vocational students to get people back on their feet. Additional funds of 3,000 baht will be given to farmer families. The government plans to assess response initiatives and warning systems for future disasters, as well as preventative measures so that they are well prepared for what is not an uncommon occurrence in Thailand.

The Border Crisis

The Border Crisis

On September 12th 2016 armed conflict broke out in Karen State of Myanmar between a split group of DKBA and the Myanmar Government Army.

The initial affected area in Hlaingbwe Township, Hpa An District but has since spread over a larger area between Hliangbwe and Phapun townships. This has come when many villages are also experiencing food shortages, and farmers are unable to work in the fields due to the fighting and landmines placed by the DKBA split group.
This follows after decades of violence between the Karen National Union (KNU) and Burmese Army that has caused tens of thousands of Karen and Burmese people to flee to refugee camps in Thailand.

Karen villagers at the distribution point.

Photograph by Sarawut Tummati

Fighting has been significantly increasing in recent weeks and this has caused a displacement crisis. An estimated 3,800 individuals have now been displaced, forced to reside in the jungle along the Thai-Myanmar border. Initially these people were able to slip into the refugee camps in Thailand, though as numbers kept increasing the Thai Military closed the border and now they must make do in Myanmar. However, as the situation becomes more desperate, refugees may resort to drastic measures to survive which puts themselves and others at risk.
ADRA enacted emergency protocol alongside other NGOs coordinating through the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC), gathering funds from the ADRA Asia Regional Office, ADRA International and the Thailand Adventist Mission (TAM). We are working with NGOs and local authorities to supply aid. After an assessment of the situation, ADRA Thailand agreed to supply 120 bags of rice, tarps and mosquito nets, which helped approximately 748 individuals. The team travelled from Mae Sot on the 26th September to the distribution site, and hired boats to get the goods across the river as this was the only way to reach the affected areas; each boat could only carry 40 bags of rice so 3 boats were used. On the 27th they handed out the supplies to 120 families

Karen Refugees wait to be given supplies.

Photograph by Sarawut Tummati

ADRA distributes tarps, pots, rice and mosquito nets to the displaced families.

Photograph by Sarawut Tummati

After consideration ADRA Thailand agreed to supply 120 bags of rice, tarps and mosquito nets, which helped approximately 748 individuals. The team travelled from Mae Sot on the 26th September to the distribution site, and hired boats to get the goods across the river as this was the only way to reach the affected areas; each boat could only carry 40 bags of rice so 3 boats were used. On the 27th they handed out all of the supplies in 2 location, and ADRA is now evaluating if there is even more that can be accomplished with any extra funding provided.

Hopefully this will get some families through a few hard months before they decide what their next move is going to be. A big ThankYou to the distribution team at ground level and programs team for getting the relief effort moving so quickly, and to the Donors for their support.