Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bangkokians wait till last minute to evacuate

The Nation October 26, 2011 5:03 am
Bangkokians wait till last minute to evacuate

The word "evacuation" seems applicable to practically everybody, with people no longer waiting for announcements from the government.

Over the past week thousands have been displaced, and even though many have been put up at the various flood-relief centres, several people are staying put till the last minute and braving the rising waters.

People are making the decision to move out for a number of different reasons. Some leave at the last minute when the floodwaters lap at their doors, but others can't afford to take the chance of leaving their homes.

Freelance journalist Kanita In-chukul's riverside home in her hometown of Bang Pa-in, Ayutthaya, was inundated last month. She was staying at her home in Saransiri housing estate in Bang Bua Thong, but that has been menaced by rising flood water for the last two weeks. Her family has had to move out and rent an apartment in Bang Saen in Chon Buri. "I don't know how long we are going to stay here as the situation in Bangkok is unpredictable," she said.

Nanthinee Vongpuapan, a freelancer and mother of two, moved her family to Pattaya on Saturday after learning about the unexpected rise in the Chao Phraya River's level. Living near the canal close to Chao Phraya Hospital off Barom Ratchachonnanee Road, she had prepared for the worst, moving all her belongings to the second and third storey and getting a fibreglass boat, but still she did not feel comfortable about staying.

"I can't find anywhere to park my car and Central Pinklao parking is full. I don't think I can afford to buy a new car," she said.

She accepted an offer from a university friend who owns a condominium in Pattaya. "I wanted to take my dog too, but it was not possible, so she has to stay at a veterinary clinic that charges Bt150 per day," she said.

Niphon Popichit, who works in the entertainment industry, spent days helping fortify his housing estate's flood barriers, alternating with sandbagging his own home. Then it came to a point where his nerves could no longer stand it.

"Living in a one-storey house, the tension was too much," said the 45-year-old man, who lives off Ram-Indra Road, not far from Fashion Island.

Four days ago, he gave his house and belongings the best protection he could, then packed up and moved to Mahachai in Samut Sakhon province with his wife and five-year-old son.

"Now a lot of people are telling me even Mahachai is not entirely safe. I just want to punch them."

Even in areas deemed less at risk, some are not taking chances. A former Air Force marshal in Lat Phrao Soi 82 has shut up his home and moved his large family upcountry temporarily. "Staying here is too stressful," he told a neighbour.

The floodwaters left the Arunruek family with no choice. The family of four members lived in a one-storey home on Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road, opposite the Royal Air Force building, until it was submerged. They have now moved to stay with relatives in Chiang Mai. Water in the housing estate is knee-high. "It is impossible for us to use the toilet; we have got to move."

In Buddhamonthol 2 Road, the Sirmsirimuka family refused to suffer the uncertain situation and moved to Parkland condominium on Bang Na-Trat Road on Monday. With two elderly members and one child, they just closed the house up and moved their belongings. "It will be difficult if the water comes so we had better move out first," said Suporn Sirmsirimukda.

In every business, colleagues have stories of being forced to evacuate. At The Nation, editorial secretary Siriporn Thongrawd who lives in the risk area of Bussarin Khlong Wa district, has moved into a room at the Evergreen condominium near the Bang Na office for a week. The condo is now fully occupied as people have booked flats to escape the floods.

Another editorial secretary Chanatesada Saengchang is facing a dilemma. Her mother fled from the flooding in Nakhon Sawan's Payuhakeeree district and has been staying with her in an apartment at Bang Na-Trat Km 7 since September 24. Her house is submerged but the water level has fallen from almost two metres to the waist-level. Despite the flooding and hearing all the news about floods heading to Bangkok - her mother wants to go home. "I'd like to take her home but I don't know how, as we have no car," said Chanatesada.
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