Rural Training Center, Thailand (RTC-Thailand)

Recent Floods Impact Trip Planning

Sep 12, 2006

WINTER 2007 TRIP ORIENTATION MEETING

The orientation meeting for the Thailand Winter 2007 meeting will be held on the 4th weekend of Sep (30 Sept) starting about 1830 hours (6:30 PM). The place is yet to be determined.

RECENT FLOODING IN NAN PROVINCE

It was a summer of unusual weather in Thailand. Typically, the SW monsoon rainy season is from May to Oct. When Saifon arrived in early May, she was greeted by a week or more of nearly steady rain, day in and day out. Then, from about mid-May until we left in mid-August, there was hardly any rain at all. In contrast to summer 2005, this past summer was dry. That is---WAS---dry until rains began to fall about 13-14 August.

The night before we flew out of Bangkok, we called Ban Na Fa and got word that it had been raining steadily most of the late afternoon and evening. On our last phone call ?“home?” before the flight, we got a report that in one night, all 3 fish ponds on the demo farm were filled to overflowing. (When we left earlier in the week, one pond was about 75% full, one pond was about 10% full, and the third was 25% full.)

By 21 Aug, after being in Hawaii for a few days, a call to Ban Na Fa revealed that all the heavily rains continued for nearly a week after we left Thailand. A reservoir dam collapsed and without much warning, a flash flood hit Thawangpha (the town near Ban Na Fa) about 0430 in the morning. The normal flood stage for the Nan River is 7m. Water reached 14.3 m!! This was nearly equal to a flood of 43 years ago. If people in villages along the river got out alive, they did so with only the clothes on their backs.

There was a shortage of flat bottomed boats. Army helicopters and flat bottomed boats were dispatched from the Provincial capital about 1 hour (35 km) south of Thawangpha. Shortly after helicopters arrived and began plucking stranded survivors from roof tops, foul weather curtailed flight operations. Later damage assessments reported Thawangpha was the worst hit area in Nan Province. Thawangpha high school and elementary schools were opened as emergency shelters, but quickly filled as people from the totally inundated nearby villages began to arrive. Teachers and students at Ban Na Fa Elementary School prepared food for survivors and sent it to the shelters (about 4-5 km away).

Nan Muang (the provincial capital) is downstream from Thawangpha. It got hit by the flood, too. And because boats and equipment had been sent north to Thawangpha, Nan Muang was short of boats for its own rescue operations. The major highway (#1080) between Thawangpha and the Nan Muang was cut when a bridge failed.

The rains continued, and authorities feared 2 more reservoir dams might fail. They estimated the additional water would raise the flood levels another 14 m. We didn?’t hear of any estimates of the water level due to the increased rain, but it could only mean more flooding. [Note: We didn?’t hear any other reports on the status of these dams since the warning notice was posted a week ago. Rains continue, but have been less intense and less frequent for the last week and a half.]

We do not anticipate any major problems for the Winter 2007 Thailand volunteer project. Ban Na Fa (the village) and the Ban Na Fa Elementary School were not flooded. However, the bus stations in Nan Muang and Thawangpha were under water. There is no way to tell what the impact will be on our Jan 2007 plans. Luckily the flood waters did not affect Ban Na Fa. The volunteer host families are not in danger of getting flooded, so that is not a worry. But the transportation links are a concern. The flood damaged a major highway bridge between Nan Muang and Thawangpha. For a while, the northern half of Nan Province is cut off from the most direct road available for emergency services. [Note: The bridge has since been repaired, and the highway is now back in service.] Since long distance bus service is the primary transportation link for Nan Province, it is sure to be high on the priority list for restoration. We are having difficulty contacting vendors based in Nan Muang.

Overall recovery may be slow and long. Nan Province is among the poorer provinces of Thailand. The flooding was extensive and many of the low-lying areas adjacent to the Nan River were prime agricultural lands. The loss of crops and livestock were tremendous. Food prices and the cost of supplies needed for the repairs will undoubtedly be skyrocketing.

We continue our efforts to negotiate the final pricing for the trip. We hope to get this completed before the orientation meeting on 30 Sep 2006 and will we will send it out by e-mail and post it to the website.


[Note: Saifon found more photos of the flood in Thawangpha on some Thai blog sites. Go to the PDF item "More Thawangpha Flood Photos".]

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