Imagine your government telling you to take a five day vacation for a weekend. Leave your home, take off from your job, and travel away from your city. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? For residents of Bangkok, Thailand, it’s a nightmare. Strong monsoonal flows have brought significant rains across the region, and the government has asked everyone to evacuate the area this past weekend in fear that flood waters will push into the city, causing disaster. Millions of people have been affected, and the flood waters are still causing major problems for Thailand.
A monsoon, a seasonal reversing of winds that can bring a lot of rain for a long period of time, persisted over Thailand from late July into November 2011. Water levels have been rising throughout the country for the past few months. This monsoon is considered to be the worst flooding event in over half a century. The last time they saw such a significant flood was back in 1942, when nine million people were affected. Flood waters from the north pushed to the south where the Gulf of Thailand is located. With persistent amounts of rain falling in the same areas, flooding became imminent. As of today, over 437 people have died from the intense flooding. Eleven thousand evacuees are living in temporary shelters throughout the region. Many people across the country ignored the government’s warnings about leaving the flood-prone areas despite the dangers of electrocution, malnutrition and disease. Most of the flooding has occurred to the north, northeast and center of Thailand. According to the U.S. National Climatic Data Center, nearly four million acres have been submerged in flood waters.
Bangkok has nearly ten million residents, and the city alone is considered to be around 20 percent under water. The airport has had numerous closures and delays. Food and water are becoming harder for residents to find because many people are trapped in flood waters. At least ten districts around Bangkok (nearly 1.7 million people) have been ordered to evacuate. That number may become larger. And government shelters are unable to care for that many people. Nearly 10 percent of the rice crop has been damaged. This could cause problems in global food prices since Thailand’s biggest export is rice.
Bottom line: Heavy monsoonal rains from July through November have produced significant flooding across Thailand, affecting at least two million people and killing at least 437 people. The heavy rains are considered to be one of the worse natural disasters for Thailand, with damage estimates to range around six billion U.S. dollars. Nearly a fifth of the country is surrounded by water, and Bangkok officials are trying their best to drain the floods. Many people are homeless, and many are not evacuated. The biggest worries about the flooding are disease and malnutrition. A lot of bacteria can be found in flood waters, and many people are moving from spot to spot by swimming. The floods have halted work across the area, disrupting the overall economy in the country. Fortunately, the monsoon rains have faded away, and the region has been experiencing drier weather which should help with the recovery efforts in the region.
Matt Daniel is weekend Meteorologist for 13WMAZ (CBS) in Macon, Georgia, and founder of the blog Athens GA Weather. He's a self-described "big weather and music geek" and has produced weather content for CNN, MSN Weather and EarthSky. He has a passion for helping to keep people safe when severe weather strikes and says if you don't have a NOAA Weather Radio ... you should get one.