Bangkok, 08 November – Thailand has been experiencing its worst flood in decades. Two weeks ago the water hit Bangkok. While much of the city remains dry, plenty of the suburbs are underwater. Many of the people we serve are unable to leave Bangkok and JRS with other NGOs are trying to locate and assist those who remain in the city. Below is a reflection from Rufino Seva, JRS Urban Refugee Programme director about his work with flood relief.
Yesterday we received a phone call at JRS from a small Sri Lankan family living in Petkasem, in Western Bangkok. Two were refugees and four were asylum seekers. I went to the Bangkok Refugee Centre (BRC) to meet with them. They told me that their home was now under waist-deep water. They had already run out of food and water, so they braved the floods and made it to BRC to meet with me.
They managed to take a ride in a truck servicing affected people, to and from their home to the dry area at Rama II road. This road is expected to be flooded in few days. I am worried because it is the only road to and from the southern part of Thailand. If this road floods, Bangkok will be isolated.
BRC provided the four asylum seekers with financial support and I offered to accompany them to the grocery store and assist them with buying groceries. Unfortunately, the store looked like it had been ransacked. There was nothing there for them to buy – no noodles, sardines, rice, eggs, or milk powder.
JRS has been able to acquire a limited supply of food for people. So, while I was happy to assist them with the food they needed, I would have been more relieved to buy it in a grocery store. With flood threat increasing, the food is going more quickly and nothing seems to be restocked fast enough.
Toi, our caseworker, invited them to Victory Monument to get food from the JRS office. When I arrived in the office they were waiting for us and we started packing the goods we will give them.
One of them said that it would take them 5-6 hours to reach the point they will catch the truck servicing people to and from Petkasem. They were very uneasy. Upon learning this, Toi immediately told me that we would get them home. I noticed their relief.
It took hours to find roads that were open and not crammed with traffic, police who could direct us and safe routes to their home. But we finally made it, and were able to drop off our friends and some dry goods.
The sequence of photos tell the chronology of events from the Rama II road to loading the truck –not a military truck, civilian-privately-owned truck – for use by the affected people in heavily flooded Petkasem Road.
Dear friends at JRS and around the world, I hope you feel like you are with us in our accompaniment of our Sri Lankan asylum seekers. These four asylum seekers must care for their families, 14 people in total including a 10-month-old baby.
One of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers said, “We have to come to get support even it’s dangerous for the sake of our children.”
Once they reached apartments after a few hours, the same person called me and said ” Sir, we reached our apartments safe and thankful of your genuine support.” He said he would not forget us. And, indeed, we won’t forget them.