King dispatches royal guards to help fight Bangkok flooding

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Responding to the problems of his people, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn dispatched a team of Royal Guards to help government workers and public volunteers dredge canals and waterways in and around Bangkok after the capital was struck by a succession of flash floods following unusually strong monsoon rains during the past few weeks.

Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart said he was “deeply grateful for the King’s help,” during a meeting of security officials last week, according to Colonel Sirichan Ngathong, a spokeswoman. He urged everyone, not just government officials and workers, to join in efforts to prevent floods and solve flooding problems.

The Thai royal family has traditionally usedits resources to provide rescue and relief to the people of the Kingdom when disasters strike. Following a massive cyclone in 1962 that killed over 600 people in southern Thailand, the royal family established the Rajaprajanugroh Foundation to funnel medical equipment, food, water and relief supplies to victims of disasters as well as providing them with financial assistance to rebuild their lives. The Foundation relies on a network of volunteers around the country.

The Royal Guards are best known for marching and appearing at important public royal ceremonies in their brightly colored uniforms and 19th-century style high plumed helmets, modeled after those worn by European militaries of an earlier era. The guards, however, are active soldiers and perform all the duties expected of those defending the nation.

Two weeks ago, 29 areas of Bangkok suffered flash floods as a result of the unusually heavy monsoon rains. Traffic was paralyzed, normally brief commutes became hours-long journeys, some shops were shuttered and some homes were inundated as the city’s sewers backed up and its drainage system overflowed.

Just five days before that “Bangkok was totally crippled,” during another day of lashing rains, reported the Bangkok Post newspaper.

Much of the capital lies below sea level and the city, once known as the Venice of the East, is latticed with a network of canals, many of which broke their banks during the violent storms. A study by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration warned that the capital could be underwater because of a combination of sinking land and rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Bangkok has seven drainage tunnels and two more are under construction. But some environmentalists advocate relying more on nature than man-made tunnels to cope with flooding. “We should instead think of how to drain water from flooded areas to canals and from canals to rivers. This is what Bangkok has to do right away,” said Sasin Chalermlarp, president of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation.

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