Floodwaters rise in Thailand . . .
Weeks of heavy rains and the onslaught of Typhoon Rai in Southeast Asia are affecting millions in the region. In Thailand, nearly one million people across the country, particularly in the south, have been struggling with floods for more than three months, the worst in a decade, according to Thai disaster prevention authorities. Most recently, the Sungai Kolok River, which separates Thailand and Malaysia, broke its banks on Monday after days of heavy rain. The swollen river swamped adjacent communities, displacing some 50 households. Fortunately, while unfinished, prevention and mitigation strategies like riverbank walls in flood-prone areas have protected some communities, which only got about 30 cm of water.
Super typhoon tears through the Philippines . . .
In the Philippines, Typhoon Rai (named Odette locally) has barrelled through the middle of the archipelago country, decimating communities in its south and central regions. With little warning from the government, more than 300,000 people have fled the worst super typhoon globally this year. Reminiscent of the relentless Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, Rai’s 195 km/hour winds have destroyed homes, schools, and hospitals and caused 375 deaths. Some of the flattened communities are well-known tourist hot spots, such as Siargao Island, which were preparing for incoming holiday-makers. Thousands of military, police, and humanitarian personnel have arrived in the shattered regions to provide aid. President Rodrigo Duterte has emphasized the challenge of raising more relief funds for the nearly 1.8 million affected people, since the national budget has been “immensely depleted” by the pandemic. The government’s response to Rai will likely become an election issue in May 2022.
The worst flooding in Malaysia in 50 years . . .
After three days of heavy rain, floods have displaced more than 50,000 people in Malaysia, mainly in Selangor state on the country’s peninsular west coast. The government has mobilized some 66,000 military and firefighting personnel to rescue the displaced and individuals stuck in homes, on roofs, or inside vehicles. Malaysia also has over 100 relief centres currently sheltering more than 20,000 people, 15,000 in Selangor alone. Worryingly, the relief centres are high-risk areas for COVID-19 transmission, compounded by the Omicron variant. Recently appointed Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has announced C$30 million for house reconstruction, infrastructural repairs, and financial aid to families. Nonetheless, the four-month-old government led by Ismail Sabri has faced intense criticism for delayed relief efforts and for holding high-profile political parties despite the ongoing pandemic and floods. Such actions will likely tarnish the current government’s image ahead of prospective elections in mid-2022.