SOUTHEAST ASIA FLOODS
October 28, 2011
Since July, multiple tropical storms and heavy monsoon rains have caused widespread flooding across Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and the Philippines, resulting in approximately 900 deaths, affecting an estimated 9 million others, and inundating thousands of houses and acres of cropland. To date, floods have most affected locations in Cambodia, southern Vietnam, and Thailand.
In Thailand, floods have impacted communities in 60 of the country’s 77 provinces. Although floodwaters are receding in the country’s northern and central provinces, water has begun to spread southward into the Bangkok Metropolitan Area. To date, floods have inundated several city districts.
In Cambodia, flooding has affected 18 of the country’s 24 provinces, exacerbating poor water and sanitation conditions and impacting one-tenth of the country’s rice crop, according to the U.N. Although the situation in flood-affected regions has begun to stabilize, floodwaters are receding slowly.
In Vietnam, floods have primarily impacted nine of the country’s 58 provinces. According to the Government of Vietnam (GoVN), current flood levels in the Mekong Delta have reached—and in some cases surpassed— flood levels from 2000, but have resulted in a comparatively low death toll, due to GoVN evacuations and other preparedness measures.
NUMBERS AT A GLANCE
Country: Number Affected/Number Evacuated/Deaths
Thailand: 2.1+ million/113,000 people/377
Cambodia: 1.5 million/46,400 families/247
Vietnam: 700,000/6,500 families/ 59
Laos: 430,000/Not available/34
Philippines: 4.3 million/65,000 people/111
Burma: 35,000/Not available/78
As of October 26, the GoT reported that floods over the last two months had resulted in a cumulative total of 377 deaths. According to relief agencies, most deaths in flood-affected areas are due to drowning or electrocution. Floods have also damaged approximately 4 million acres of crops across 60 of Thailand’s 77 provinces. Flooding continues to affect more than 2.1 million people across 26 provinces, down from 28 provinces reported on October 25.
The GoT has established more than 1,700 temporary evacuation centers—primarily schools and universities. To date, approximately 113,000 individuals have evacuated flood-affected areas for shelters in safer areas. Local media sources report that families continue to depart Bangkok for unaffected provinces, with significant outbound traffic reported on roads, bus terminals, and the Suvarnabhumi Airport. However, according to the U.N., an estimated 80 percent of flood-affected individuals countrywide have chosen to remain in their houses.
To date, central Bangkok has not experienced significant flooding and most locations in the inner city remain dry. However, GoT officials have alerted individuals in the Bangkok Metropolitan Area of possible additional flooding in the coming days, as water run-off from upstream locations combines with high tides in the Gulf of Thailand between October 27 and 31. High tides are expected to increase water levels in the Chao Phraya River and may prevent floodwaters from draining into the gulf. According to GoT officials, locations near the Chao Phraya River and communities outside of the city’s flood barriers, including northern, western, and eastern suburbs, remain at risk of flooding.
In recent days, emergency personnel have experienced difficulty draining water from northern locations to the east of Bangkok, due to its elevated location. Roads in the area have also blocked floodwaters from reaching newly installed water pumps. To facilitate water drainage, GoT officials have proposed digging channels into five roads in eastern Bangkok. As of October 28, the Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, had given her approval for one road channel to determine its impact on water drainage.
On October 26, USAID/OFDA staff visited Nong Chok and Lat Krabang districts in the eastern Bangkok Metropolitan Area, where local government officials began to report flooding early last week. Officials in Nong Chok District—located at the intersection of the Khlong 13 and Khlong Saen Saep canals—reported that the drainage system in the district has been working efficiently, and USAID/OFDA staff confirmed that water levels in both canals remained relatively low. However, because the area is located outside of the city’s flood defenses, people in the district remain at risk.
On October 27, USAID/OFDA staff visited flood-affected areas and three evacuation centers in Ayutthaya Province—one of the areas most affected by recent floods—and Suphanburi Province. USAID/OFDA staff noted that the majority of people in areas visited have chosen to remain in their houses, purchasing food, water, and other basic household goods at nearby markets or through government distribution systems; families also have access to food, water, emergency relief supplies, and health care at evacuation centers. While reporting no acute unmet humanitarian needs in the areas visited, USAID/OFDA staff noted a need to continue to closely monitor populations’ access to safe drinking water and sanitation and hygiene facilities in flood-affected areas, particularly if displacement is prolonged. To date, drinking water continues to be provided at evacuation centers and is available in stores; however, supplies are decreasing. The GoT is currently working with retailers to ensure that stores in affected areas continue to be re-stocked.
According to USAID/OFDA staff, doctors and nurses are providing health care to flood-affected individuals at the evacuation centers visited, with no significant increases in diseases or major health concerns reported. USAID/OFDA staff found that Pra Nakorn Sri Ayutthaya hospital remains under approximately 2 meters of water, but noted that officials had already transferred patients to other facilities and had begun removing equipment from the facility.
On October 28, USAID/OFDA staff reported that the Chao Phraya River had not overflowed in eastern locations of central Bangkok to Nonthaburi Province, with water levels remaining 1 to 3 feet below the flood walls. However, while the river has not inundated areas visited, the USAID/OFDA team observed water backing up in storm drains on side streets, resulting in some inundation along roadways. The team also noted that emergency personnel had begun to pump water away from main streets.
GoT emergency personnel continue to work to increase the height of embankments along the Chao Phraya River and pump water away from inundated neighborhoods. According to USAID/OFDA staff in Bangkok, approximately 2,000 volunteers are assisting with flood prevention and mitigation efforts by making an average of 50,000 to 60,000 sandbags daily at a location managed by the GoT Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM). Potential flooding in the coming days will likely depend on several factors, including the level of water run-off from northern locations, the tide levels, and the capacity of levees and embankments to withstand water flows.
The Flood Relief Operations Center (FROC) continues to urge Bangkok residents to prepare for a worst case flood scenario during the coming days, including potential evacuations. As of October 28, GoT officials had advised residents of Bang Plad, Don Muang, Sai Mai, and parts of Thawi Wattana districts to evacuate, placed other districts near the Chao Phraya River and major canals on alert for possible evacuations, and advised city residents to depart the capital, if possible.
As of October 26, monsoon- and tropical storm-related flooding had impacted 18 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces, resulting in 247 deaths and affecting approximately 1.5 million people. Floods have also resulted in the evacuation of more than 46,300 households. Although the situation has begun to stabilize, with water levels decreasing in several areas during the past week, floodwaters are receding slowly.
Agriculture and Food Security
According to the U.N., floodwaters have impacted more than 1 million acres of rice paddy, of which approximately 57 percent were damaged, particularly in Kampong Thom, Battambang, and Prey Veng provinces. Damaged paddies account for approximately 9 percent of the total 2.5 million acres of rice planted this season. According to relief agencies, loss of crops will likely significantly impact vulnerable households’ livelihoods and food security, as most flood-affected families rely on agricultural production for both food and income.
WASH and Health
As of October 20, the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) had provided funding and technical assistance to the GoC Ministry of Health (MoH) to perform rapid health assessments and start daily surveillance of communicable diseases in flood-affected districts. To date, the MoH has not identified a significant increase in diseases in flood-affected areas. According to a recent MoH–WHO assessment in eight affected provinces in Cambodia, while floodwaters had
inundated approximately 108 health centers in areas assessed, health care officials continue to deliver health services to affected populations.
Floods have submerged water sources in many flood-affected provinces, limiting affected families’ access to safe drinking water. While officials have not reported any significant outbreaks of diseases at this time, consumption
of contaminated water puts people at risk for the spread of waterborne diseases. Following recent field assessments, the USAID/OFDA RA noted the need for increased access to safe drinking water, in conjunction with hygiene and sanitation activities in flood-affected areas to prevent an increase in waterborne diseases.
Monsoon rains, exacerbated by three recent tropical storms, have resulted in flooding across Vietnam, particularly in southern and central provinces. As of October 24, floods had affected more than 700,000 people, resulted in approximately 60 deaths, and inundated an estimated 88,000 houses, as well as thousands of acres of rice and other crops, according to the GoVN.
According to the U.N., water levels in the Mekong Delta Region remain above flood Alert Level III, with only slight decreases observed in recent days. The GoVN National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting predicts floodwaters to continue to slowly decline, but remain above Alert Level III until early November. The U.N. and GoVN authorities expect floodwaters in Ho Chi Minh City, the most populous city in Vietnam, to continue rising through the end of the month, due to unusually high tide levels and expected releases of floodwater from two reservoirs in neighboring provinces. According to local media reports, local authorities in southern Vietnam are reinforcing broken dykes, pumping water out of rice paddies, and monitoring the stability of important dyke in affected areas.
Two consecutive typhoons led to flooding and landslides in the northern Philippines, affecting more than 4 million people, resulting in approximately 110 deaths, and damaging or destroying an estimated 73,000 houses, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). As of October 25, more than 12,000 individuals remained in 13 evacuation centers in northern regions. On October 12, an additional storm, Tropical Storm Banyan moved over the Philippines, resulting in 10 additional deaths and affecting nearly 63,000 individuals across 11 provinces.