Pattaya drowns … again

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In a city where even an hour of heavy rain floods main arteries, last weekend’s 12-plus hour downpour brought Pattaya to its knees as its flood-control infrastructure again proved unable to keep up.  This lonely car on Sukhumvit Road is just one of the many casualties of a city underwater.

Officials deflect blame as city’s poorly maintained infrastructure fails again

In a city where even an hour of heavy rain floods main arteries, last weekend’s 12-plus hour downpour brought Pattaya to its knees as its flood-control infrastructure again proved unable to keep up and public officials either pointed fingers at other causes or simply weren’t talking.

The Sept. 10-11 monsoon, which lashed Pattaya with more than 23 cm. of rain in 12 hours, brought record flooding to virtually all of the city, submerging South and Second roads in 1.5 meters of water, making parts of Sukhumvit Road impassable and inflicting what one resident termed “carnage” on East Pattaya as raging waters washed away even parked motorbikes.

In a city where even an hour of heavy rain floods main arteries, last weekend’s 12-plus hour downpour brought Pattaya to its knees as its flood-control infrastructure again proved unable to keep up.  This lonely car on Sukhumvit Road is just one of the many casualties of a city underwater. In a city where even an hour of heavy rain floods main arteries, last weekend’s 12-plus hour downpour brought Pattaya to its knees as its flood-control infrastructure again proved unable to keep up.  This lonely car on Sukhumvit Road is just one of the many casualties of a city underwater.

As Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome, Banglamung District Chief Chawalit Saeng-Uthai and Chonburi Gov. Wichit Chatpaisit went on a publicized disaster-area tour, they had very little to say to the press.

The root cause of the severe flooding was obvious to everyone: the city’s flood-control and drainage system is not only inadequate, it’s so badly maintained that garbage, overgrowth and broken pipes can turn even moderate storms into damaging and expensive floods. However city officials – who just six days earlier rewarded the city’s drainpipe cleaners with free food and an offer of city housing for their supposed good work – cite other factors than the trash seen clogging drains throughout the city.

Chonburi Gov. Wichit Chatpaisit (left) surveys the flooding in South Pattaya.Chonburi Gov. Wichit Chatpaisit (left) surveys the flooding in South Pattaya.

Chatpaisit claimed that the amount of rain that fell was simply too much and that had the storm been smaller, flood mitigation would have kept up.

Itthiphol pointed to the canal in South Pattaya that is supposed to handle much of the runoff in that area. Trash piled near its origin at the Camelot Hotel blocked water from Sukhumvit Road from entering the canal, backing up water throughout East Pattaya, he said. Buildings constructed on the canal’s banks have encroached on the waterway and near its terminus at the Siam Bayshore Hotel, Itthiphol added, weeds and other growth have narrowed the canal.

Raging waters in the Khao Noi Community are so strong, they wash away even parked motorbikes.Raging waters in the Khao Noi Community are so strong, they wash away even parked motorbikes.

The mayor failed to mention that the city had promised to clear such obstructions during a much-ballyhooed “crackdown” on canal-area building owners in October 2009. Wichit bailed out the mayor, pledging that this time officials will definitely clear the canal and fine offenders.

Also left unmentioned was the decision by the city’s water treatment plant to close off a Walking Street pipeline Aug. 30 due to a broken valve. That pipe normally takes water from the entertainment district and beachfront back to the Soi Buakaow plant and then out to sea.

Sunday afternoon on Soi 16 leading to Walking Street where just a little over a week ago, workers shut down a main pipeline to repair leaking sewage.Sunday afternoon on Soi 16 leading to Walking Street where just a little over a week ago, workers shut down a main pipeline to repair leaking sewage.

Clogged drains, obstructed canals and broken valves all took their toll on the city during the flood. People and vehicles were stranded from Chaimongkol Temple to Soi Bonkot’s Moom-Aroi restaurant, from Soi Wat Thamsamakkhee to Traguun Road and from Soi Khao Talo to Soi 10, where garbage was the only thing racing down side streets.

No motorbike taxi here - Women walk past inundated motorcycles as they try to make it home during overnight flooding.No motorbike taxi here – Women walk past inundated motorcycles as they try to make it home during overnight flooding.

Raging floods and lakes of standing water did even more damage. Coconut trees fell along Beach Road, sidewalks collapsed in South Pattaya, holes appeared along the entire expanse of Sukhumvit Road and the new Jomtien Second Road, and Pattaya’s Second Road looked like it had been put through the spin cycle. Trash and sandbags littered downtown for days after waters receded and officials who’d just a week earlier approved an emergency budget of 1 million baht to fix earlier flood damage on Soi 10 now had an even larger job on their hands.

There is little hope that this Mercedes will escape the flood unscathed.There is little hope that this Mercedes will escape the flood unscathed.

Traffic backs up on Sukhumvit Highway as the South Pattaya section becomes impassable.Traffic backs up on Sukhumvit Highway as the South Pattaya section becomes impassable.

Crews work to clear the debris from the drainage canal near Bali Hai pier.Crews work to clear the debris from the drainage canal near Bali Hai pier.

Sawang Boriboon volunteers launch rubber boats to rescue citizens and monks unable to escape the flood on Sukhumvit Road.Sawang Boriboon volunteers launch rubber boats to rescue citizens and monks unable to escape the flood on Sukhumvit Road.

Early Sunday morning, the entire Sukhumvit area is flooded and impassable.Early Sunday morning, the entire Sukhumvit area is flooded and impassable.

The market area on Soi Buakaow is completely under water.The market area on Soi Buakaow is completely under water.