Devastating floods cause widespread damage across much of Thailand
On 5th September 2014 the Yom River broke its banks, leaving the worst floods to hit the area for 50 years. The Yom river basin experiences some of the worst flooding problems due to its lack of dam to manage water flow, and in this situation, the river level rose from the non-overflow level of 9.54 metres to 11.54 metres. The floods were also exacerbated by the extreme runoff from the swollen River Phrae, leaving a critical flood situation in the central plain’s provinces of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. By Saturday 6th September the floods had spread to the villages of Sukhothai’s Si Samrong district, leaving hundreds of homes flooded.
- The main effects of the floods included the flooding of over 14,000 households in 7 different provinces, claiming the lives of nine individuals.
- Five of Sukothai’s districts were declared disaster zones, flooding 204 villages in an area where a UNESCO World Heritage Site lies. Phong Phen was also an area inundated with flood waters, affecting over 3,000 residents.
- More than 400 households in Si Samrong district were swamped with floodwater for four consecutive days. Saen Suk housing estate in the Si Samrong district was hit with more than 1.5m of water.
- More than 1,500 households in Muang district were also struggling with overflow from the Yom River after a 100m section of flood wall collapsed.
- On the 6th Spetember floodwater had ravaged around 3,000 rai of farmland in Sukhothai, however, by 11th September persistent rains had generated a runoff that caused severe flood damage to as much as 320,000 rai of agricultural land.
- Strong river currents destroyed a bridge and bought down several power poles, which subsequently led to a blackout in six villages in Tambon Nam Mhan. This prompted residents to prepare for evacuation, since it bought back memories of the floods in 2006 when the area was also hit by a landslide.
- The overflow swamped the Sukhothai-Wang Mai Khon highway with water levels reaching as high as half a metre- the road was left impassable to all vehicles.
Response to the floods
The ministry allocated 369 million baht to fund the relief effort. 200 police, Army and provincial administrators evacuated those at risk in flooded areas, and helped move residents and their valuables to higher ground. Army officers also strengthened flood barriers, and removed water hyacinth in natural water courses to allow for better drainage.
The foundation under His Majesty the King’s patronage gave humanitarian aid for relief and reconstruction to families in the four villages hardest hit by the floods.
As a result of the floods, authorities prepared a flood wall to help block overflow from the river. In the case of severe flooding, the walls on the river bank will be able to withstand up to two metres of flood water.
While the floods caused devastating damage to some areas, one advantage of the late onset of the floods this year was that it gave the farmers in Ayutthaya more time to prepare. Rice growers in some areas took precautions by harvesting their crops early so that the flood waters would less likely affect their paddy fields.
While the water level now continues to decrease, the situation remains difficult because of the damage to the banks. The river banks will be restored when the water is back at normal level.