News / Asia

UN: Southeast Asian Floods Trigger Humanitarian Crisis

A soldier offers to take care of an evacuee's dog during an evacuation at Nawa Nakhon industrial estate on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, October 18, 2011.
A soldier offers to take care of an evacuee's dog during an evacuation at Nawa Nakhon industrial estate on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, October 18, 2011.
Ron Corben

The United Nations says ongoing floods in Southeast Asia are triggering a humanitarian crisis.

Floods and disasters in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines have killed more than 700 people and affected eight million others.

The Thai capital remains under threat of flood waters that have already inundated factories considered to be a key part of the country’s economic engine.

Related report by Daniel Schearf

Noeleen Heyzer, executive secretary for the U.N.’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) said Tuesday the U.N. is ready to support communities hit by the catastrophic floods. But Jerry Velasquez, a senior regional coordinator with the U.N.’s International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said that over the long term, countries such as Thailand need a more comprehensive framework to manage disasters, especially floods.

"The main shortcoming right now is that there are about eight institutions centrally that deal with water in Thailand," said Velasquez. "That this is an issue not just for Thailand but most of the countries affected by floods now in the region; there’s no comprehensive framework to deal with water and I think this the main issue."

For Bangkok, a critical 48-hour window

Senior city officials in Bangkok say the next 48 hours are critical for the city, where thousands of volunteers, soldiers and government workers are scrambling to shore up flood defenses.

The death toll in Thailand has reached 315 with flood waters affecting 27 provinces. Weather forecasts indicate more monsoon rains are expected in the coming days.

Economist Somphob Manarungsan says the floods could lead to a sharp fall in Thailand’s economic growth rate over the last quarter, with the economic toll rising to as much as $6 billion.

"Maybe up to two per cent of GDP [gross domestic product] -  that is a tentative figure but I think it is maybe a bit higher than that - which means it may cost 200 billion baht," he said. "But we still don’t know exactly about this because we can still see the flood still going on."

Key areas of Thailand’s industrial heartland, including six major industrial estates and parks, have been hit by flood waters despite desperate efforts to hold back the flood tide.

The industries produce major export items such as automobiles, computer hardware, other industrial goods and food processing. They employ up to 500,000 highly-skilled workers.

Is the worse yet to come?

UNISDR’s Velasquez says U.N. disaster analysis raises fears the current flooding in Thailand may be a prelude to even worse flood catastrophes in the future.

"The question in our minds is that we’ve predicted the most catastrophic floods [as a once-in-200-years] event - [and] the catastrophic one is this already," he said, explaining that relief agencies classify the magnitude of natural disasters by the statistical probability that they would occur in a given time frame. "So is this the most catastrophic or are we going to see far worse in the future? And, for me personally, I think the worst is yet to come.”

In neighboring Cambodia, nearly 80,000 families in Prey Veng province alone are reported to be facing food shortages for the next year due to flood-related crop losses.

The flooding there is seen as the worst in over a decade, though the reports say the Cambodian government has yet to declare a national emergency.

The U.N. says the floods and disasters across the region pose a threat to the countries’ achieving their key development goals by 2015.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs