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Starting July 31, 2011, many regions of Thailand were inundated by the worst floods the country has faced in the past five decades. Over 606 lives were lost and about 12.8 million people affected in the calamitous floods. Heavy rainfall began in May 2011, the monsoon season, and a series of storms precipitated the situation. As the floods started to move south most of the northern, north-eastern, and central districts were submerged.

The floods began in late July, fed by heavy monsoon rains and a series of tropical storms. The flood waters swamped entire towns as they moved south through the country's central heartland to Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand. More than two-thirds of the country's 77 provinces have been flooded during the four-month-long crisis. Fifty-eight of the Thailand's seventy-six provinces were affected causing the country an estimated damage of US $45 billion. As of mid December reports, the situation has improved considerably and the capital city, Bangkok is well on its way to being flood free. The floods have severely affected the nation's economy.



Areas Affected

With the 2011 monsoon season in Thailand commencing from May, major floods in most of the northern and north-eastern provinces started on July 31, 2011. The provinces of Bung Kan, Chiang Mai, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nan, Nakhon Phanom, Nong Khai, Phitsanulok, Phrae, Sakon Nakhon, Sukhothai, Udon Thani Phichit and Uttaradit were the earliest to be affected. The Nan River flooded its banks and inundated all adjoining districts and the city of Nan. By August 2011 the provinces of Ang Thong, Ayutthaya, Nakhon Nayok, and Nakhon Sawan provinces started to feel the impact of the incessant floods. By mid September the floods had taken over most of the central provinces of Thailand and had started to head south.

Ayutthaya, the ancient capital city of Thailand, was probably the worst affected. Over 200 monasteries, forts and other ancient monuments were flooded causing much damage to the heritage and the historic relics of the country. The city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage center in the year 1991. By October 2011 the capital city, Bangkok was taken over by the floods. The flood barriers of the adjoining Pathum Thani region gave way and the Khlong Prapa canal started to flood. Evacuation measures were put in place and the residents of many districts in the capital were forced to seek to take flood relief measures. Though downtown, Bangkok did not suffer much damage, the regions surrounding the Thai capital were inundated posing a major health and sanitation concern. Mid December news reports confirmed that Bangkok will be flood-free by early 2012.

Relief Operations

The floods in Thailand had started on July 31, 2011. Relief and rescue operations in the country started in mid-August. The country's Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department set up a 24*7 Emergency Operation Center. The Thai military launched rescue operations distributing food and sustenance kits to the residents of the affected areas. The Flood Relief Operations Center at Don Mueang Airport served as the base for rescue operations.

In October the aircraft carrier USS George Washington was deployed in relief operations. Other countries such as Japan and the Philippines and a number of voluntary organizations assisted in the relief work.

Damages

The Thailand floods of 2011 have been termed the worst floods considering the number of people affected and the amount of water inundating the country. Reports from November 2011 confirmed that over 12.8 million people were affected. In December the Thai government confirmed that the death toll from the flood was estimated at 606. With fifty-eight of the country's seventy-six provinces affected severely, World Bank estimated the damages resulting from the flood to amount to US $45 billion. In domestic currency terms Thai economy suffered a loss of about 1,440 billion THB, making the natural calamity the fourth costliest in history. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami of Japan, the 1995 Kobe earthquake, and the 2005 Katrina Hurricane were the top ranking costliest natural calamities of the world. In November 2011, the Tourism Authority of Thailand estimated that the revenue loss to the tourism industry could well reach up to 17 billion THB.

The global rice trade is set to take a major setback as a result of the floods in Thailand. The country accounts for over 30% of the rice trade the world over. Thailand farmers predict a 25% dip in the produce as a result of the floods.

Among the other countries affected by the floods in Thailand, Japan is set to face the most damages. Japanese companies such as Toyota, Hitachi, and Honda, have plants in Thailand and were affected as a result of the disaster. Toyota alone may be set to face a loss of US $2.5 billion.

Restoration

In November 2011, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, announced an aid package amounting to US $10 million to assist the flood victims of Thailand. While the assessment of damages in Ayutthaya is still on, late November reports suggest that tourists have started to return to the flood-free provinces of Thailand and the country's tourism industry is on its way to finding its feet. The Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has proposed spending about US $4.2 billion on reconstruction and prevention of future calamities.

Among the concerns dealt with by the residents of the country, the escape of reptiles from the country's 3,000 crocodile farms and the infestation of deadly snakes are perhaps the most worrisome. Many parts of the central business district of Bangkok seem to be returning to normalcy. Rebuilding parts of Bangkok is another major task faced by the Thai authorities.

 

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