Safe in Pattaya, flood victims reflect on water’s impact of lives, careers

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Pattaya residents complaining about heavy traffic and light supplies of foodstuffs caused by Thailand’s devastating floods should talk to Sumreng Khruemai, Praset Saengmai-on and Chaiyanan Pansirisod. For these Bangkok-area evacuees taking refuge in the city, flooding has imperiled a lifelong dream, a career and an everyday way of life.

“I’m scared,” 75-year-old Praset said, “I lost my construction job and my home has been flooded with so much water, it has almost reached the roof. Rice and betel are hard to find and expensive when you can. I’ve come to Pattaya for survival.”

Konmanee Supply Co. owner Pairaj Konmaneee - an evacuee himself from the company’s headquarters in Lopburi - said his stock levels have dropped to near zero.Konmanee Supply Co. owner Pairaj Konmaneee – an evacuee himself from the company’s headquarters in Lopburi – said his stock levels have dropped to near zero.

The Pathum Thani resident, whose home is near the over-run Phraudom Canal in Lumkaew District, isn’t alone. Since flood runoff from central Thailand smashed through levees and barriers into metropolitan Bangkok last month, Pattaya has been inundated itself by frightened, desperate and overwhelmed victims. The lucky ones have enough resources left to afford specially discounted hotel rooms. About 12,000 less-fortunate souls have ended up in blankets on the floors of schools and recreation centers around Chonburi.

Pathum Thani resident Praset Saengmai-on (right) says, “I lost my construction job and my home has been flooded with so much water, it has almost reached the roof.”Pathum Thani resident Praset Saengmai-on (right) says, “I lost my construction job and my home has been flooded with so much water, it has almost reached the roof.”

Prasert has found work as a contractor with Pattaya’s Konmanee Supply Co., but even though the supplier of storage tanks and water pumps has not been affected by the water itself, the flooding is still having an impact on the firm. Owner Pairaj Konmaneee – an evacuee himself from the company’s headquarters in Lopburi – said his stock levels have dropped to near zero as supplier factories have closed down. He’s now trying to find alternate suppliers closer to Pattaya.

“As a Pattaya resident, I want to welcome and encourage all the flood victims,” said Namchok Ningthum, 25, of Huay Yai.“As a Pattaya resident, I want to welcome and encourage all the flood victims,” said Namchok Ningthum, 25, of Huay Yai.

In parts of Bangkok – where eight of 50 districts have been inundated – finding any sort of supplies has become nearly impossible, said Nonthaburi evacuee Chaiyanan.

“Drinking water, instant noodles, baby formula, rice and diapers are all in short supply and what there is cannot meet the needs of those in Nonthaburi,” she said. “Near my home at the Mahasawat Canal water is crashing into the embankments and my neighborhood is flooded. I didn’t want to stay there anymore and came to Pattaya.”

Sumreng, a wheelchair tennis athlete, is also waiting in Pattaya; not only for the waters to recede from his home along the overflowing Chao Phraya River in Minburi, but to be able to restart training for the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia, where he was scheduled to compete.

His practice sessions were canceled until further notice and, once his house flooded, he fled the city to Pattaya. “The situation is extremely frightening and the crisis is getting worse,” he said.

For their part, Pattaya public officials, business leaders and most residents are trying to make the unfortunate visitors welcome.

“As a Pattaya resident, I want to welcome and encourage all the flood victims,” said Namchok Ningthum, 25, of Huay Yai. “Don’t give up because the water goes up, and it goes down – you don’t have to worry about it. Later, it’ll be gone.”

Lions Club of Pattaya President Somchai Chancharoen (right) and Namchaichana Deeve (left), an associate judge at the Central Labor Court in Bangkok, joined together to donate more than 1,000 bags of relief supplies for flood victims in Singburi, where the Bangsomsri Dam burst.Lions Club of Pattaya President Somchai Chancharoen (right) and Namchaichana Deeve (left), an associate judge at the Central Labor Court in Bangkok, joined together to donate more than 1,000 bags of relief supplies for flood victims in Singburi, where the Bangsomsri Dam burst.

Others, meanwhile, are trying to help those toughing it out in the capital.

Lions Club of Pattaya President Somchai Chancharoen and Namchaichana Deeve, an associate judge at the Central Labor Court in Bangkok, joined together Oct. 28 and donated more than 1,000 bags of relief supplies for flood victims in Singburi, where the Bangsomsri Dam burst.

The influx of refugees is causing traffic build up in the area.The influx of refugees is causing traffic build up in the area.

Following his return to Pattaya from delivering the packs, Namchaichana said more than 400 families came out to accept the supplies. “It may not be much, but these donations came from Pattaya citizens are not facing the flood crisis directly, but still want to help.”

“This is the time we all need to help one another,” said Tourism Authority of Thailand Pattaya office Director Athapol Vannakit. TAT has recruited nearly 40 hotels to offer steeply discounted rates for flood victims. He said the city is ready to handle evacuees even as high season starts and tourists will not be turned off to the city because of it.

Sumreng Khruemai, a wheelchair tennis athlete, waits for the waters to recede from his home along the overflowing Chao Phraya River in Minburi, so he can resume training for the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia.Sumreng Khruemai, a wheelchair tennis athlete, waits for the waters to recede from his home along the overflowing Chao Phraya River in Minburi, so he can resume training for the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia.

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