Thailand floods: TSF's response to the disaster

TSF mission (October 11th – October 18th, 2011)


From July 2011, Thailand suffered the worst floods in five decades. Some 62 of the country's 76 provinces have been devastated, nearly 400 people have been killed and around nine million people affected. Millions of people have lost their homes, forcing thousands of them to seek refuge in makeshift camps and evacuation centres. Some parts of Bangkok and its suburbs have been flooded for a long period of time; land, businesses, homes and possessions have been destroyed.


TSF offices flooded

The Asian Institute of Technology‘s campus (AIT), where TSF's regional office is located, has been completely evacuated and TSF took the necessary steps to safeguard its high value computer and telecom equipment. As of October 22nd, the AIT campus was completely inundated under almost 2 meters of water. TSF came back, with the aid of an army boat, to assess the equipment remaining in the office. Opposite, a TSF employee tries to enter our Bangkok offices.


TSF deployed a team to the evacuation centres in the town of Ayutthaya, in one of the most affected provinces (20 km north of TSF Asia HQ). The objective was to assess the telecommunications needs of the relief teams and the 3,300 victims who have taken refuge there. Three sites were visited by the TSF team: Town Hall – Ayutthaya, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University and Thammassat University.


TSF met with the different national organisations responsible for the disasters’ evaluation and coordination. Humanitarian agencies faced a huge challenge, making it difficult to co-ordinate relief operations efficiently. Organisation and dissemination of information from the affected areas, very hard to access, was hampered, and status was thus difficult to ascertain. TSF remained on alert to establish an emergency telecom centre for relief workers.


A priority for TSF when they arrive in disaster zones is to set up a phone line so those affected can touch base and give a sign of life to family and friends. Natural disasters and conflicts often separate families from one another. When flooding struck Thailand, TSF moved quickly to set up a base to shelter victims. TSF workers conducted humanitarian calling operations in the evacuation centres of Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Rajamangala University Technology Thanyaburi (17 km from Bangkok). Local people gathered round TSF call points and gladly accepted TSF offer of a free call.


Thailand floods: A camera to monitor water level

Floods in Thailand paralyzed the country for long weeks. The objective for the Institute was to open for the resumption of classes in December. To make this possible, all the AIT staff was forced to leave the campus and two temporary offices were opened in Bangkok.

In order to enable AIT administration to monitor security, TSF has developed a pilot system to monitor water level at the AIT. TSF installed on November 4th a digital video camera, powered by solar panels, which films a stick showing water level. It can take one picture per minute and then send them to AIT administration via GSM network and a website developed by TSF (3G routeur).

This is the first time TSF has implemented such a project. This technique can be very useful during other missions where the assessment of the situation is unsafe or drawn over long periods of time. The video system in AIT has been working properly in spite of regular power cuts and unreliable communication network.