BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) – Southeast Asia is bracing for more torrential rains with rivers submerging lands. Currently over 500,000 square kilometers of land have been flooded in countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, a surface roughly equivalent to the size of Spain.
While Bangkok is getting feverish about the possibility to experience dramatic flooding from the end of this week – the worst in half a century – the nearby city of Ayutthaya has already been one of the most tragic victims of continuous rains. Ayutthaya city center with its numerous ancient buildings and temples is built on an island surrounded by three rivers. With the breaking of flood barriers, the inner city has been invaded with waters, which eventually reached up to two meters in some areas. It is the second time in less than six months that the historical city has been devastated by floods.
Among the heritage sites being affected were Wat Chai Watthanaram, the Portuguese Village, a centuries-old settlement dating back to times when Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam, as well as the 500-year-old Pom Petch Fort were swamped by waters from both the Chao Phraya and Pasak Rivers. In the vicinity, one of Thailand’s largest industrial parks with most of Thailand’s car manufacturers, was submerged, with water reaching a height of five meters. It will probably take many months to clean up and bring back normal life to the city and surroundings.
Once the crisis is over, the Tourism Authority of Thailand will, however, affect a dedicated promotional budget to help with Ayutthaya’s recovery. In an interview to the Bangkok Post, Sansern Ngaorungsi, TAT Deputy Governor for Asia, indicated to increase promotion and advertising by organizing familiarization trips for Japanese media, one of the largest groups of foreign visitors to the ancient city. Japan, the US, and Belgium have already issued travel advisories for their citizens planning to visit flooded areas in Thailand.
With rain moving further to the south, Bangkok continues to fear the worst as it is only two meters over sea level. High sea tides combined with rain should hit the city between Friday and Monday according to experts. The government is currently speeding up flood prevention measures, with canals being dredged and floodwalls being built all around the city. Problems arise when those floodwalls break down, which has already happened in the past few days in Ayutthaya and in Nonthaburi.
At Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, authorities have installed a 3-meter-high embankment around the airport’s perimeter with possible drainage into six water retention ponds that are able to contain up to 4 million cubic meters of water. On Tuesday, air traffic at Thailand’s biggest air gateway was affected for a few hours by the closure of one of the two runways.