Coping with the aftermath of the floods in Thailand
With Thailand still recovering from last year’s political crisis, this year the worst flood in generations swept through two thirds of the country, causing over 600 deaths and inundating about six million hectares of land. The estimated damage as forecast by the World Bank is US$45bn (£28.75bn, €33.47bn). In the following report, the Anthroposophical Group in Thailand describes the consequences of the floods.
BANGKOK (NNA) – Beginning in the north in July, massive volumes of runoff from an unusually heavy monsoon season soaked province after province in the central plains of the country on its way to the sea with Bangkok towards the end of its path in October.
Located in the northern suburb of the capital, the Panyotai Waldorf School was highly vulnerable as the floodwater roared down. Fortunately, tips from friends at the Centre for Disaster kept us updated about the situation and allowed us to make timely decisions. Staff and parent meetings were urgently called in mid-October to pass on the message, advising them to evacuate.
Most of them followed the advice and felt grateful. The warning was also forwarded to friends and colleagues. When the runoff arrived and covered the school yards, the buildings, being on higher ground, were safe and dry above the water level. Many parents’ houses are flooded, though.
Traidhaksa School, Baan Rak Kindergarten, and Tonrak Curative School, which are in other parts of Bangkok further from the destructive reach of the torrents, have been spared the flooding that has devastated communities to the north and west.
Even though barriers have been put up to prevent water from entering the capital, its powerful force could not be effectively stopped. As districts fell one by one to the floods until half of Bangkok was turned into a huge swamp that continued to slowly, incessantly creep deeper into the city, daily announcements were made of more evacuation zones and more road closures.
To people's stress and dismay, the crisis management has been heavily politicised and inefficiently handled, leading to uncertainty as to whether the severe disaster is natural or man-made. Amid conflicting, confusing, and untrustworthy reports and estimates from the authorities and experts, people felt hopeless and that they had been abandoned to defend themselves.
Many neighbourhoods have for weeks been under knee-deep, and even waist or chest-high, murky water which is likely to stubbornly linger. Numerous stranded residents are in dire need of food, drinking water, and medication, which official and volunteer relief efforts can never seem sufficiently to meet.
Joint efforts to alleviate the plight of victims in times of natural disaster usually trigger the best in human beings, as attested by spontaneous public outpouring of flood relief assistance. The parents, staff, and students at Panyotai School chip in, cooking meals, making EM balls [Effective Micro-organism balls to help disinfect contaminated flood waters], packing aid packages.
As in many natural disasters, the students and staff of Panyotai have played an important part in packing first-aid kits for the Thai Red Cross Society. This time around they have got even more calls for help from the Thai Red Cross.
Being aware that, as a result of the magnitude of this disaster, the innumerable flood victims who got trapped in their houses without timely warning and sufficient assistance from the state would be in dire need of food and water, the school formed a network with different organisations in various communities to provide and deliver food and necessities to desperate flood victims. Since the parents of the school were safe as a result of the timely warnings, they were able to actively get involved from funding to delivering several truckloads of food and necessities to these people.
In the meantime, parents and staff at Traidhaksa School made donations, traditional remedies and led a music session at an evacuation centre. Medical doctors working on the basis of the anthroposophical impulse joined the Alternative Medical Group in providing alternative healthcare to the victims of the flood.
Though floodwaters have receded in many areas, some neighbourhoods in greater Bangkok and adjacent provinces remain submerged. The start of the second school term in flooded provinces was rescheduled again and again from late October to early December.
Climate change in a warming world, environmental degradation and blind urbanisation are among the messages sent by such a mega catastrophe. It brought up water as one of the paramount environmental issues to watch for. Water is traditionally believed to have the sacred power of washing away bad elements and ushering in a new, clean start. Washing down central Thailand, including Bangkok, the heart of the country, the deluge reminded us that the heart needs to be purified so that a new consciousness can settle in. Political divisions and social schism will have to make way for collaboration and empathy.
If the current crisis helps everyone to realise this, learn the lessons and care more about the relationship with nature and with one another, it will not have happened in vain and the country’s chances of a clean start will not have been washed away with the flood.
Item: 111212-01EN Date: 12 December 2011
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