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30 October 2011

Hamnet Weekly report for 30 October 2011


The latest from flooded Thailand! This report from Jim Linton, VK3PC, Chairman IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee, and Tony Waltham, HS0ZDX, radio amateur society of Thailand, RAST International and IARU Liaison.

Severe flooding that has claimed the lives of over 370 people in less than three months is now closing in on the capital Bangkok as the authorities struggle to divert as much water as possible around the city and reinforce barriers to keep remaining areas dry.

But according to Tony Waltham, HS0ZDX, for many areas to the north of the capital it is too late and hundreds of communities there are uninhabitable with flood water more than two or three metres deep in some areas.

Under water is agricultural land reducing the crop yield, factories causing suspensions or disruptions, and housing. The economic cost is put at $3 billion. The heavy monsoon rain earlier hit Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines.

Amateur radio has been playing an ongoing role in this disaster with operators helping to co-ordinate relief and rescue work using VHF two-way communications and repeaters, HF communications in the 40 metre band (7060-7063 KHz).

As well there are several Echolink conference rooms, including the "Bangkok", "Thailand" and "HS0AC" conferences. (A list of VHF frequencies and repeaters can be found at the RAST website http://www.qsl.net/rast).

Tony, HS0ZDX, reports a special centre for amateur radio communications has been established by Thailand's regulator, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) using the call sign HS0AB at Bangkok's second airport, Don Mueang, which is now besieged by flooding itself.

Among the areas inundated by more than a metre of water is the campus of the Asian Institute of Technology, where the Radio Amateur Society of Thailand's HF club and contest station HS0AC is located.

Sadly, all the transceivers and equipment at desktop level or higher, are now submerged under flood water.

The amount of rainfall in Thailand since July has been unprecedented. Based on government figures the total runoff from a series of tropical storms is now estimated to comprise around 20,000 million cubic metres of water.

More than half this volume still to make its way through rivers, canals and pumping stations past Bangkok to reach the Gulf of Thailand.

It has been estimated that between 400 and 500 million cubic metres can be drained each day, which means that the ongoing crisis is likely to last at least another 20 days, if there is no more heavy rainfall -- however, the rainy season has not yet ended.

Adding to the threat level for the remaining dry areas in the capital city over the next few days are a series of peak sea tides forecast for October 30 and October 31 that should cause river levels to rise even higher than their record levels at present.

More than 10 million people have been directly affected by flooding so far, while the Thai Government has been encouraging residents of Bangkok, which has a population of some 12 million, to evacuate if possible and to move their valuables upstairs as a precaution, while a public holiday has been declared for 21 provinces from October 27-31.

Many industrial parks north of Bangkok have been inundated despite all attempts to keep flood water at bay and this has seriously disrupted Thailand's manufacturing sector and has also caused supply chain shortages for in several industries.

Most of Bangkok is low-lying, being just one metre or less above sea level, while Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has predicted that the floods will take from four to six weeks to recede.

People are also being asked to boil tap water as flood water briefly breached the canal that provides the city with its drinking water and bottled water is now in short supply in shops and department stores around Bangkok.

Tony HS0ZDX describes it as a time of uncertainty for most residents of Bangkok, although he remains protected for the moment.

We sincerely hope that this crisis situation soon gets resolved and that the flooding will recede and allow things to return to normal in flooded Bangkok.

Reporting for Hamnet – this is Francois Botha – ZS6BUU.