Pattaya picking up the pieces after Vamco ‘disaster’

0
992

Steps leading to Pattaya Beach in front of the Pizza Hut restaurant on Pattaya Beach Road were turned into a deceptively beautiful waterfall as tropical storm Vamco raged through the area. Days later, Pattaya residents were still digging out and tallying their losses after the most powerful storm to hit the area since 2011 brought massive flooding, destruction and death to the Eastern Seaboard.

Pattaya residents are digging out and tallying their losses after the most powerful storm to hit the area since 2011 brought massive flooding, destruction and death to the Eastern Seaboard.

Chonburi Province, and specifically Banglamung District, were declared disaster zones by the national government, opening the spigot to emergency relief funding and military assistance in the cleanup. And the cleanup is going to take a while.

Steps leading to Pattaya Beach in front of the Pizza Hut restaurant on Pattaya Beach Road were turned into a deceptively beautiful waterfall as tropical storm Vamco raged through the area. Days later, Pattaya residents were still digging out and tallying their losses after the most powerful storm to hit the area since 2011 brought massive flooding, destruction and death to the Eastern Seaboard. Steps leading to Pattaya Beach in front of the Pizza Hut restaurant on Pattaya Beach Road were turned into a deceptively beautiful waterfall as tropical storm Vamco raged through the area. Days later, Pattaya residents were still digging out and tallying their losses after the most powerful storm to hit the area since 2011 brought massive flooding, destruction and death to the Eastern Seaboard.

Tropical Storm Vamco formed over the South China Sea on Sept 13, and went ashore in Vietnam before continuing into Thailand. Although it was downgraded to a tropical depression by the time it hit Pattaya on the evening of Sept 14, it packed enough of a wallop to wash away a construction camp in Nong Plalai, leaving 200 poor workers homeless.

Related: 200 construction workers see housing camp destroyed by storm.

On Sept. 15, the Pattaya Marine Department flew red flags, telling boat operators to stay ashore. But the order stranded 450 tourists on Koh Larn. The authorities deployed four large, double-deck passenger boats escorted by rescue workers’ vessels to Koh Larn to pick up the tourists. They returned to the Pattaya coast safely, but reported that the return trip was harrowing.

Pattaya Beach pavement near Soi 6/1 was completely destroyed.

Wednesday night, Highway 7 around the Kratinglai intersection with Highway 36 saw some of the worst damage from the growing storm with waters rising almost 1.5 meters. Traffic came to a standstill as a 300-meter section of the Bangkok-Chonburi expressway became impassable. Two vehicles that tried to drive through the flood were totally inundated.

Pattaya Beach was full of rubbish and shellfish that washed up in the waves.

Authorities worked for almost three hours with the help of heavy-duty pumps to drain most of the water off the road, but more than 30 centimeters of water still remained on the road surface. Three additional pumps were put in to prevent a recurrence, but even they weren’t enough to keep flooding at bay the next night.

Related: New pumps can’t save Highway 7 from flooding closure.

The events of Wednesday proved to be just a preview of the true rage as Vamco, although downgraded again to “low-pressure cell”, continued to wreak havoc on the Pattaya area dropping seven hours of rain that evening to submerge much of the region.

The Jomtien Beach area, including the partly finished refurbishing of the promenade, received lots of damage.

East Pattaya Sois became streaming rivers, including Khao Talo, Khao Noi, Nernplabwan, Nong Yai, Siam Country Club, Local Road and Sukhumvit. Motorbikes and low-clearance vehicles were completely disabled as the water level in each street ranged from 50-100 centimeters deep.

Very heavily flooded areas included the Nong Yai Temple area, Highway Police Department area, the entire stretch along Beach Road, Jomtien Beach Road, Pattaya Third Road near the Moom Aroi restaurant, South Road, North Road, side streets connected to them, lower Pratamnak Road, Second Road, Soi 17, Soi Yensabai, and Soi VC.

Sand erosion was of course expected after the heavy flood (Jomtien Beach).

Meanwhile, authorities worked throughout the city, re-directing vehicles and making sure that the residents and tourists were evacuated from low-lying areas. Pumps were installed in designated areas, especially along Beach Road, the last line of defense which receives the massive amount of water that flows from higher elevations in the city.

Damages caused by the floods were great, as shops and homes that have never flooded before were inundated by the enormous amounts of rain water. Convenience shops became floating markets. Motorbikes were seen floating down roads in East Pattaya along with washing carts, trash bins, noodle stalls, temporary shops, tables and chairs.

Traffic on Sukhumvit Road was halted by the flood.

“Near Soi Siam Country Club, many of the roads at low points were flooded and I saw many bikes and cars stranded,” said Alfie Wells, owner of Lakeview Properties near the Mabprachan Reservoir.

Pratamnak Hill restaurateur Jimmy Malone said his sixth-floor roof terrace doors and ceiling fans where torn off and power was lost at 6 p.m. While it was restored, it went out again Sept. 17 at 2 p.m., he said.

The now famous duo of vehicles that tried to make it through the flood waters on Highway 7, km 116-117.

Contractors moaned as new pavement and walkways along Pattaya and Jomtien beaches were destroyed, especially in Jomtien where a massive facelift project is currently underway.

Huge cement blocks and tiles were broken by the force of the water. Contractors said that they have no option but to wait and clean up the mess before re-doing the footpath.

Pattaya Beach was full of rubbish and shellfish were washed up by the waves. Residents were seen on the beach collecting the clams and mussels while authorities started to collect the trash.

Entire hamlets found themselves deep in muddy floodwater.

Rainfall continued off-and-on on Sept. 17, again pounding the region after dark.

A Pattaya hotpot vendor hunting for fish in the floodwaters was swept away and would not be found dead until more than 24 hours later.

Related: Fishing vendor dies in Vamco flooding.

In Huay Yai, Khlong Bang Pai Reservoir overflowed, ripping up roads and causing streams of floodwaters to inundate communities in the sub-district.

More than 40 homes in Rongnamtan Kao village were waist-deep in water and more than 20 residents were trapped in their homes, including a 7-day-old infant who was with her 72-year-old grandmother, Surin Petchkaew.

High tide always brings the worst flooding, even during “normal” downpours.  Add in storm surge from a tropical depression and it became difficult to see where Pattaya Beach Road ended and the ocean began.

The grandmother said the overwhelming amount of water took her by surprise, not giving her any chance to escape in time. She spent approximately three hours holding the baby above the water and close to her chest in her home before help arrived.

At the same time, a large sinkhole developed near a bridge leading out to Highway 331, approximately 500 meters from the Huay Yai Police Station. The water shortly tore away a section of the road and one car was washed away in the flood.

Related: Army leads flood-relief effort in inundated Huay Yai.

By Sept. 18, the skies had largely cleared and downtown Pattaya was down to just puddles, but the misery continued in Huay Yai, which saw teams of soldiers and local officials deploy trucks, buses and boats to rescue and bring aid to victims in areas still dealing with standing water.

Tourists, stranded on Koh Larn during the storm, were eventually ferried back to Pattaya.

Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome led a delegation to the Soi 5 Thanwa community at Sukhumvit Soi 42 while Nongprue officials began handing out food and drinking water.

While the storm devastated many parts of Thailand – four other provinces were declared disaster zones along with Chonburi – the coming weeks will not only see cleanup and rebuilding around the city, but renewed questions and criticism of Pattaya officials over storm preparedness, especially as it relates to the city’s fragile drainage infrastructure and lagging work to install upgrades.

Dude, where’s my car?

The navy sent enlisted men to help evacuate areas in Ban Chang.

As enlisted men deliver sandbags to Samnak Ton village in Ban Chang, a family carries their motorbike to safety.

Sailors fill sandbags in Rayong.

Police and city officials deliver food and water to Pattaya flood victims.

A view of the devastation in Ban Chang from the air in a naval helicopter.

Floodwaters were over a meter deep in Darapan Village 5, Pattaya.

Members from the Royal Foundation aid flood victims in Sukhumvit Soi 46 Pattaya.

Some people lost almost everything in the flood, including this family in Sukhumvit Soi 46 Pattaya.

More than 20 Huay Yai residents were trapped in their homes after Klong Pai Lake overflowed.

Emergency personnel bring out Huay Yai residents who had been trapped in their homes.

Rescuers tried to save this pickup from a watery death, but eventually lost their battle as the chasm widened, swallowing the vehicle and sweeping it away.

If there was a bright spot at all, it might be that the storm surge deposited a bounty of clams and mussels on Pattaya Beach, which local residents were quick to take home.