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Predicted high tides this weekend have caused thousands of Bangkok residents to evacuate the city for drier ground after the government announced an official five-day holiday. Three months of unusually heavy rains have left 381 dead and 110,000 displaced. An estimated 4.6 to 16 billion dollars in property destruction has also been wrought in areas of northern and central Thailand.
Although the major commercial areas of Bangkok have remained less affected, some residential areas are heavily submerged. On Sunday, water levels were expected to reach 2.6meters, or over 8 feet. Despite the destruction, many breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the economic core of Bangkok, and major world producer of computer hard disk drives, is still intact.
However, Bangkok officials are hesitant to admit victory over the deluge when flood waters offer an ideal breeding ground for diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Clean drinking water has also become limited, and many international governments are issuing travel advisory statements.
Some residents outside of major cities have become cut off from relief efforts and supplies. UNICEF is providing thousands of mosquito nets to limit the spread of disease, and the Red Cross is donating bottled water and relief kits.
The Washington Post notes the vast environmental differences concerning flooded and dry sections of Bangkok, home to over 9 million people.
“The desperate images of disaster contrast sharply with scenes of total normality — from night-owls drinking cocktails in red-light districts to tourists enjoying relaxing foot massages in faux-leather chairs downtown.”
CNN.com reports, “Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has urged stores not to stockpile goods, amid concerns that panic buying was leading to a shortage of essential items.” The government warns citizens that although they are trying to speed the process of draining flood water into canals and the sea, it may take over a month for water levels to return to normal.
This method of coping has not left everyone satisfied. Frustrated by the lack of concrete information being dispersed by the government, filmmaker Kriangkrai Vachiratamtorn created a viral animation that explains why the floodwaters are particularly high this year.
Vachiratamtorn likens the floodwaters to a pod of 50 million whales trying to make their way through Bangkok to the Gulf of Thailand. The video series has already seen over 700,000 hits and can be watched with English subtitles at: http://www.youtube.com/user/roosuflood#p/u/4/b8zAAEDGQPM