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natural disaster

Thailand after the floods: When communities own their change

Flavia Carbonari's picture
Also available in: ภาษาไทย

In 2011, Thailand suffered the worst floods in half a century. The flood crisis impacted more than 13 million people. About 97,000 houses were damaged and entire villages and cities were under water for months.

House in Ayutthaya affected by the 2011 floods
House in Ayutthaya affected by the 2011 floods

Three years later, Thailand has been able to deal with the worst of the impacts but some of the poorest households are still struggling to recover. We visited 10 affected communities in Ayutthaya and Nakhon Sawan as part of the supervision of the Community-based Livelihood Support for Urban Poor Project (SUP). We could still see the water marks on their walls, damaged ceilings, and wobbly structures. The unrepaired houses stuck out but just as striking was the strong sense of community in the area. We were reminded that villagers came together to overcome the worst natural disaster most of them ever witnessed in their lives.

The flooding led to better disaster risk management in the neighborhoods  that are most at risk. Local governments have taken the lead. But the disaster has also, just as importantly, mobilized ordinary citizens in some of the most deprived communities. Here are some of their stories:

Philippines: Surviving Tropical Storm Ondoy - Ketsana

Dave Llorito's picture
For 24 hours last Saturday, Typhoon Ondoy dumped 455 millimeters of rain on Luzon, causing massive floods and destroying lives and property in Metro Manila. (Photo courtesy of IRRI Images under a Creative Commons license)

Muelmar Magallanes, an 18 year-old construction worker, had already saved 30 people from the raging floodwaters last Saturday. Shivering and exhausted, he dived back into the murky waters to save a mother and a baby girl who were bobbing up and down among the floating debris and brought them to safety. Then he was gone, swept away by the torrents. His body was found the following day.

Magallanes is one of the more than 240 casualties caused by Tropical Storm Ondoy (international name: Ketsana). For 24 hours last Saturday, Typhoon Ondoy dumped 455 millimeters of rain (double the volume brought to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina) on Luzon, causing massive floods in Metro Manila and the adjoining regions, destroying lives and property, and creating anguish and devastation in the metropolis.

Cheerful colors reflect new hope for earthquake victims in Indonesia

Nia Sarinastiti's picture
The 2006 earthquake killed Tito Judi's adopted son and destroyed his house. He feels the cheerful colors of his new home help to lift his spirits.

On an early morning in 2006, an earthquake struck Special Province of Yogyakarta and Central Java in Indonesia. The place, known for its heritage, culture, scenery and humble life of its people, was devastated. The 6.2 Ricther Scale quake killed about 5,700 people and left more than 150,000 families homeless and 50,000 injured. But given the many life hardships that most of people have had to face since losing their homes and loved ones from the disaster, beneficiaries of the Java Reconstruction Fund (JRF) – managed by the World Bank – seem to have beaten the odds and have since long moved on with their lives.

What I found most interesting during my visits to the locations is the sense of style and creativity of the house owners.  Especially in the villages of Bantul, Yogyakarta – the hardest struck area – people can easily identify houses that were funded by JRF through the outstandingly colored, newly constructed houses, painted in cheerful tints of pink, yellow, green, blue, red, or somewhere in between.  How it all started was never revealed, but it seems everyone wanted to get away from the conservative colors of white, crème and grey.

October 8 is International Day for Disaster Reduction

Zoe Elena Trohanis's picture

Growing up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, every year in elementary, junior high and high school, we would participate in hurricane drills. An alarm would sound, and all the kids would file into the interior hallways, sit cross-legged on the floor, and cover our heads with our hands. Some of us, if there wasn't a hallway handy, would crawl under our desks until we were told it was safe to resurface. Thinking back on those drills, I knew they were important but never quite made the link as to why we had to do these exercises, since strong hurricanes never seemed to make their way that far inland while I was growing up. Of course then in 2004, Hurricane Ivan blew through my hometown and caused massive damage, and knocked out my parents' power and water supply for more than a week. I'm sure the local schools put their hurricane drills to good use during that storm.