Call for urgent upgrade to flood alert system

national July 30, 2017 01:00

By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
THE SUNDAY NATION

THE COUNTRY’S disaster warning system needs to be reformed, experts emphasised yesterday, as there was no warning for the recent flash flood in Sakon Nakhon that resulted from heavy downpours and leakage in a local reservoir.



Meanwhile, experts have reassured the public that there will be no big flood similar to the disaster in 2011, because there was no indication of heavy rainfall in the late phase of the rainy season.

The flooding in the Northeastern provinces was due to obstructions to the local water drainage systems and a large downpour in a short period of time.

On Friday morning, Sakon Nakhon residents woke up to find their city being submerged by flash flooding caused by heavy rains. Shortly afterwards, more than 1 million cubic metres of water that leaked from Huai Zaikamin Reservoir washed down towards the city, intensifying the flood situation and leaving some areas under two metres of water.

Due to the lack of warning, a large number of people were unable to evacuate in time and their belongings were damaged by floodwaters.

Hannarong Yaowalers, Thai-Water Partnerships chairman, said that the disaster in Sakon Nakhon was not the first and would not be the last, unless the disaster warning system was improved.

“In January, we witnessed the failure of the authorities to warn the people in Prachuap Khiri Khan about the upcoming severe floods from the broken reservoir upstream, which cost people lives,” he said.

“The incident in Sakon Nakhon proves that there are serious flaws in our warning system, which need to be fixed as soon as possible.”

Hannarong said that the current disaster warning system was too slow to keep up with the recent floods, and that authorities needed to keep updating it.

“What we have experienced in Sakon Nakhon is that the precipitation in the province increased over 200 millimetres within a short period,” he said.

“This signified the critical situation of a flash flood, but it seemed that the local authorities were too complacent and were not ready to cope with the situation, so the damage is great,” he said.

Hannarong stated that the system should warn people immediately when there is any indication of disaster. People should be informed in enough time to evacuate and they should be made aware of how long the disaster will last.

“It is quite simple to warn the people about flood, because we already have the monitoring system for precipitation and water levels in the reservoirs,” he said. “All the authorities need to do is tell people the truth as soon as possible.” 

However, Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department deputy director-general Kobchai Boonyaorana said the disaster-warning system was already working well, but the flash flood in Sakon Nakhon occurred too rapidly. Officers were simply unable to warn the people in time.

“From the information provided by the Meteorological Department, there was a cluster of heavy rain in the Sakon Nakhon area during the time of disaster. When the rain met with the Phu Phan Mountain Range, it caused a heavy downpour within a short period, and triggered flash flooding from the mountain to the city down below,” Kobchai explained.

“It happened so fast, but after the flood, we dispatched a disaster relief team to Sakon Nakhon immediately to help the people and restore the basic infrastructure.”

He said that five evacuation centres had been set up right afterwards and had received 909 people. The authorities also diverted floodwaters to Nong Han Lake and drained the water out to the Mekong River to relieve the flood situation in the city.

Chaowalit Chantararat, managing director of the TEAM Group engineering firm, said that the major flooding in Sakon Nakhon was mainly because the local drainage system could not receive a large amount of water.

Despite the severity of flooding in the Northeastern region, there was no indication that there would be major flooding in the Chao Phraya River Basin and Bangkok soon.

“This year is actually a normal year in terms of precipitation levels, which means that we will get the normal amount of rainwater and there will be no big flood like in 2011,” he assured.

 

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