Thailand: Bangkok residents caught off-guard by torrential rain

A photo showing cars driving through the floods after heavy rain pounded Bangkok on Wednesday 20 July, 2022
A photo showing cars driving through the floods after heavy rain pounded Bangkok on Wednesday 20 July, 2022 © Twitter/@nichieme

Heavy rain pounded Bangkok on Wednesday 20 July, 2022 and images circulating on social media show the extent of the damage. Our Observers sent us videos of tuk-tuks struggling to navigate flooded roads, motorbikes being push-started and pedestrians wading through knee-high water.

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Heavy downpours are well known in Thailand: the country entered the "Wan Khao Phansa" or "Buddhist Lent Day" on 14 July, which traditionally coincides with the start of the rainy season.

"Lots of office workers hid under shelters"

However, according to our Observer, Yu-Ning, who lives in Bangkok, the scale of the downpour caught many off-guard.

As it happened during rush hour after work, many office workers hid under shelters, not knowing what to do. There were also many people taking their motorbikes to the sidewalks, trying to restart their bikes”

A photo showing motorbikes stuck in the flood.
A photo showing motorbikes stuck in the flood. © Twitter/@CoconutCowboy_

Bryan, who has lived in Thailand since 2017, also told us that it was the worst rain he has experienced since then.

The police had trucks, and they were pulling bikes and cars out of the really deep areas.

The police officer helped me get my bike drained and get it to start again. Then, he led me and some others out of the floods on our bikes where there was less water.

Bryan and the police officer who helped him out of the flood.
Bryan and the police officer who helped him out of the flood. © Twitter/@CoconutCowboy_
Nichie sent us an image that documents the rain downpour in the Bangkok Area from 7pm on the 20 July, 2022 until 1am on 21 July, 2022. The pink indicates rainfall between 120-150 mm, and we can see that several regions in the city experienced that amount of rain.
Nichie sent us an image that documents the rain downpour in the Bangkok Area from 7pm on the 20 July, 2022 until 1am on 21 July, 2022. The pink indicates rainfall between 120-150 mm, and we can see that several regions in the city experienced that amount of rain. © Observers

John, an English teacher in Bangkok, said that some of his students were late or absent the day after the rainstorm because of traffic or flooded homes.

[My students] said it was the first time in years that it had rained so much in Bangkok and for such a long time. They were also surprised by the lightning.

 

The France 24 Observers team also spoke to Baedrian, who works in a hospital:

One of my colleagues took an emergency day off after the flood because her home was destroyed and it was impossible to drive her car until the water level lowered.

A photo showing cars driving through the floods.
A photo showing cars driving through the floods. © Twitter/@nichieme

Floods are a recurrent problem in Bangkok. They are linked to the geography of the city, which is built on ancient swamps and is crossed over by the unpredictable Chao Praya River. 

For our Observer Artie, there is an urgent need to find solutions to these recurring floods in Bangkok. He believes that the capital's inhabitants also have a role to play: 

They (the governors) have been trying to fix the drainage system in Bangkok, the thing is that people are selfish I would say. 

Many still litter wherever they go, and the garbage that results from that behavior then blocks the waterways and makes it harder for the drainage system to work properly.

Experts suggest creating a central authority to deal with flooding issues. 

I think the governor of Bangkok should really work with this auxiliary body to find a way to create a more centralized system and mitigate disasters.

A heavy rainfall warning was still in effect in Bangkok on Friday 22 July. Other areas of the country are also affected, such as Phrakhanong, Saphan Sung and Thawee Wattana. 

In 2011, one-fifth of the city was under water and 500 people died in the worst monsoon floods in decades. The outlying areas were particularly hard hit.