Leave it to the Thais to keep cool, and lighten the mood with a joke in a crisis.
Wednesday night, as Bangkok was bracing for the flood surge that has since killed at least 366 Thais and displaced hundreds of thousands of others, former Governor of Bangkok Pichitt Rattakul told journalists at a press conference that Thailand’s numerous water management institutions, such as the Flood Relief Operations Center (FROC), were failing the people.
“We don’t need FROC, crocodile, snake,” he joked, playing off the acronym's resemblance to the word frog and also referencing the recent paranoia about crocodiles on the loose in the flooded streets.
Riverside neighborhoods with historical buildings such as the Grand Palace and National Museum, saw Chao Phraya River water spilling out into the markets and streets with the high-tide on Thursday. But shopkeepers took it in stride, scrambling to reinforce temporary flood barriers, and then remained open for business as usual. No shoes, no problem.
Before Bangkok’s drainage system was updated in the late 1990s, streets flooded regularly after each rain, and residents learned to go with the flow. But the “gigantic” amount of water, according to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, is perhaps a different story.
According to a Dutch consultant advising the Thai government, there are upwards of 4,700 cubic meters of water rushing down the Chao Phraya River, which only has a capacity of 3,500 cubic meters per second. The prime minister warned in an emotional televised address on Thursday that the three key flood barriers that might not hold are the only thing keeping flood waters from the northern provinces at bay. If they fail, water could close in on Bangkok from all sides.
Bangkok-native Kittichee, is an engineer and travels across the Chao Phraya River every week to visit his mother at Siriraj hospital where she is being treated for lung cancer. “I feel confident that she will be safe because she is at the hospital where our king is.”
He says he feels prepared for the flood, and says he won't evacuate, despite the on-again off-again warnings to. “Every part of Thailand should share in the flood, and the water must go through Bangkok to get to the sea. So Bangkok should flood, it’s only natural. It’s not even a surprise.”
Many in Bangkok have chosen to flee the city for ahead of this weekend, which has been forecasted as the height of the flood, leaving bus stations and roads jam-packed. Some 800 inmates were evacuated from flooded prisons in Bangkok to other facilities.