Bangkok Post : Come hell or high water: Flood survival guide

by Symptom Advice on November 3, 2011

How do I know if my neighbourhood is likely to be affected by flooding and power cuts? How do I find out if I can get where I need to go?

Official sources such as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (, flood hotline is 1555), the Irrigation Department (, or call 1460), Flood Relief Operations Command (, as well as and follow developments, but English-language information is limited. For general information you can contact the Government Call Centre (1111). For Thai speakers, there are hotlines for trains (1690), buses (1490), highways (1586, 1784; and 1146 for local roads), highway police (1193) and emergencies (191). the Thai Meteorological Department has weather forecasts and warnings at, the Emergency Operation Centre at and the Government PR Department at at is a useful map of flooded areas, suggested travel routes and danger zones.

What other resources for English speakers and foreigners are there?

Follow English-language news sites such as, or for updates. the English, French and German-speaking tourist police can be reached on 1155. Useful blogs and forums include and Contact your embassy for recommendations. the United States embassy provides useful information at, or call 02-205-4049; the British embassy at, or call 02-305-8333. the Tourism Authority of Thailand (1672) offers general information for tourists.

Will public transport stay in operation?

Many buses have changed routes to use unaffected roads (call 1490). the BTS will continue running as long as there is a stable power supply, and as of Friday afternoon the MRT had closed some entrances and may shut some stations, though it aims to operate as long as possible. the Chao Phraya Express Boat service is halted until Nov 7. Train services to the North have been suspended, while many long-distance buses are running alternate, more time-consuming routes as some roads and highways remain closed. (You can check affected roads by visiting there is also a taxi shortage in some parts of the city, as drivers have taken their cars off the road or gone upcountry. Don Mueang airport is closed until Tuesday, but Suvarnabhumi is operating normally and is fortified with flood walls.

If it is necessary to evacuate, will the armed forces or other services help residents move to safety?

It is probably better to take preventive measures early in case authorities are overloaded by relief efforts. if your area is at high risk of flooding you should consider packing a suitcase with essentials and being mobile for a quick evacuation if necessary.

If I’d rather not wait for official clarifications, where can I go? are shelters for everyone?

Many schools and public buildings have been set up as shelters and there are hundreds in metropolitan Bangkok and thousands nationwide. Visit (for places in Bangkok: for a list of shelters (in Thai) or call 1111. You can stay in a shelter in any district if you have been affected. the site has telephone numbers for each shelter, which might also be useful if you are trying to contact evacuees to find out if they are safe.

What foods and supplies should we stockpile at home?

Water is most essential, along with tinned and dry packaged goods, torches, radios and extra batteries, essential medicines and other foods to last a protracted stay at home that could stretch several weeks.

Will banks stay open? Will money be available from ATMs?

Banks have indicated they will stay open and cash will be available, except for branches and machines in hard-hit areas.

Will mobile phone networks be secure? Will internet providers and Wi-Fi hotspots stay operational?

These should continue working as long as an electricity is available. many services are already experiencing some disruptions due to heavy use or staff being unable to get to work.

Will supermarkets and convenience stores remain open? what stocks will they have and how long will they last? Will petrol stations be able to provide fuel?

Don’t count on them staying open. at the time of publication, Tesco Lotus has closed 40 stores and 7-Eleven has closed over 270 convenience stores, and supplies of water and some commodities are dwindling.

What are some of the health and safety risks I face walking through floodwaters?

Floating and submerged objects; broken glass; snake, rodent and crocodile bites; and chemical and petroleum contamination from inundated factories and refineries are some possible dangers, as well as an increased risk of infection of water-borne diseases and wound infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis and ear, nose and throat infections, not to mention drowning.

Will raw sewage be mixed with the water?

This is quite possible, as tanks and treatment facilities become inundated.

Is there greater risk of communicable diseases? should we take any precautionary measures such as vaccinations?

According to the World Health Organisation, floods can potentially increase the transmission of water-borne diseases such as typhoid fever, cholera, leptospirosis and hepatitis a; and vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and dengue haemorrhagic fever, yellow fever and West Nile Fever. however, ”this risk is low unless there is significant population displacement and/or water sources are compromised”, while ”tetanus is not common after injury from flooding”. the organisation doesn’t recommend mass immunisation drives, but be vigilant for possible symptoms such as fever and skin irritation. there was a leptospirosis epidemic in Thailand in 2000 following flooding. try to ensure safe food preparation and clean water.

What do I do in case of a medical emergency? Will hospitals be open?

Call 1669 for medical emergencies or 1554 for an ambulance. Hospitals will stay open, but ambulances may not be able to reach you if surrounding areas are inundated, and some services may be curtailed. Chulalongkorn Hospital is closed to new patients except emergency cases until tomorrow, and Siriraj Hospital has an evacuation contingency plan for critically ill patients if the hospital grounds are flooded.

If running water is still available at home, can its quality be relied on? can it be boiled to use for drinking water?

Normally it is safe as long as it is boiled, but check the water colour. Some municipal tap water has already turned yellow or brown due to backwater contaminating water supplies, and it is advised not to drink it unless it is filtered or at least chlorinated and boiled. new water filtration machines have been installed at evacuation centres and hospitals.

If there is still a power supply at home, is it safe to use all the appliances normally, provided they aren’t in contact with water?

The risk of electrocution is very real. if your home is flooded or at imminent risk, turn off the power supply and don’t use electrical appliances except for battery-powered essentials such as torches or radios.

What insurance claims can I make for home and/or vehicle damage?

Check your policy. Unless you have prime insurance or specific coverage for flood damage, it is unlikely you can claim damages.

Is my employer legally required to provide me with some form of compensation or allowance during the floods if I’m affected?

Most companies will show sympathy for stranded employees but aren’t obligated to provide compensation or days off for you to secure your home.

How long is this period of uncertainty likely to last?

This weekend’s high tide will be particularly precarious, but because of the billions of litres of water still flowing to the capital from the North, high water levels may continue to be a problem for another six weeks or longer.

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