Monday, August 15, 2005

Chiang Mai Floods

In the past 36 hours, the Ping River in Chiang Mai has flooded. Yesterday morning, I heard that our office was in danger of flooding. By noon, I heard that there was 3-5 inches of water in the building and our maintenance man requested our help in getting stuff from the first floor to the second floor.

Late in the afternoon, the decision was made for me and two other men to go to the office to rescue the first floor. By the time we got there, we had to wade in water thigh deep for nearly a mile, against the current. We when got to our office, we were surprised to see that the front wall had collapsed under the weight of the current and the yard was completely filled with rancid, dirty water.

When we arrived in the building, there was about 12 inches of water in the first floor. The electricity had already been turned off. We continued to "save" the research library, video library, and research files, among other things. The Thai staff worker had recruited 3-4 other guys and they had gotten all of the computers and other electronics safely to the second floor.

By the time we felt we were finished, we were simply too tired to face the strong current back to the highway and we decided to stay there and sleep on the floor. There was no electricity, phones, or food. We did have quite a lot of bottled water. We also had our cell phones. Once the office staff realized that we were there for the night, they began to call us and tell us where their private food stashes were!

We had a very long night on the floor and an early morning today. We called around for a big truck to come and get us, but it never happened. One of the Thai guys found a boat for us, but didn't know when it was going to come by. There is a private resort next to our compound where some colleagues were staying with their families. We decided to give the boat to them and go ahead an walk out.

It was amazing to see people, with nearly 3 feet of water in their houses, still smile and wave to us as we walked by their homes. People were trying to float out their motorcycles in small, little fiberglass boats. People had placed their chickens and dogs on the roofs of their houses. And, of course, the little kids were enjoying playing in that horribly dirty water.

Tragically, there have already been 4 deaths reported. The government said that they are being forced to release even more water from the dams and it should crest at 6 am tomorrow (Tuesday).
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