I knew that things in Bangkok were getting serious when I got one of those Dear Family and Friends emails from a friend that lives in Bangkok.
She never sends out emails with that kind of salutation so I knew that something must be up. She said that they had done everything they could do to secure their house and were heading for the hills – quite literally.
I couldn't help but wonder what types of plans her neighbors that lived on the banks of a klong – Thai for canal – were doing. Many of them don't even have cars – let along second homes – to escape to.
My friend has a second home in the hills some four hours north of Bangkok. She often spends weekends there. This time, she is likely to be there much longer than a few days.
“We have made all the provisions we can for the house and we are afraid we'll be trapped so we're leaving tomorrow before the high tides make the rushing water from the north rise even higher,” her email said.
A couple of days earlier my friend wrote, saying that they had gone to the supermarket and the shelves were bare. Ïn her 30 years in Bangkok she had never seen that before.
“It was kind of scary,” she said.
Northern and Western Bangkok
According to The Nation, flood water is continuing to rise in Northern and Western Bangkok, where my friend's house is situated.
A section of dike at Don Mueang Airport, the city's second air hub, had collapsed. The terminal was being used as an evacuation centre, but as flood waters started to inundate the runways and tarmac, the evacuees had to be moved to higher ground.
As Bangkokians scramble to prepare themselves as best they can, the question on everyone's mind is, will the city's Central Business District be spared? And what about the Thai capital's impossible to pronounce Suvarnabhumi International Airport?
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has warned that flood waters could last for as long as four weeks and that there was a 50-50 chance that downtown Bangkok would not be inundated. Translation: there was a 50-50 chance that it would be inundated.
Britain Issues Travel Advisory
Britain's Foreign & Commonwealth Office has issued the following statement:
“We now advise against all but essential travel to the city of Bangkok and the 26 provinces in Thailand affected by flooding. Our advice against all but essential travel to the city of Bangkok does not include transit through Suvarnabhumi international airport. Flights to destinations elsewhere in Thailand (eg the resorts of Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, and Koh Samui) continue to operate normally. We continue to advise against all travel to the Preah Vihear and Ta Krabey/Ta Moan temple areas and against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla.”
Here is a look at how what other governments are advising their nationals.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Australian government's smarttraveller.gov.au has urged Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Bangkok and Thailand's flood affected provinces.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada is urging Canadians “to exercise a high degree of caution in Thailand” and “advises against non essential travel to Bangkok and flood affected areas.”
The New Zealand government's SafeTravel is “advising against all tourist and other non-essential travel to the city of Bangkok and the 26 provinces in Thailand affected by flooding due to disruptions to transport and other services and sporadic food and water shortages.”
The U.S. State Department does not appear to have issued either a travel warning or a travel advisory against travel to Bangkok or the other flood affected areas of Thailand, but the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok said that as “a purely precautionary measure, U.S. citizens assigned to the Embassy who live approximately 12 kilometers north of central Bangkok in Pakred District, Nonthaburi Province have the option of relocating to central Bangkok, should they wish to do so.”
The embassy also urged US citizens to “monitor local media sources.”
Don't know about anyone else, but – compared to what other countries are saying – the US advisory sounds pretty tame …