Thailand is often known as the heart of Southeast Asia, as it lies in the centre of the ASEAN Region, sharing borders with Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, and Myanmar. The nation is home to a variety of geographical features – including mountains, flatlands, coastal regions, rivers and wetlands – with its proximity to the equator ensuring a hot and steamy climate throughout most of the year, with a climate controlled by tropical monsoons.
While the risk of natural disaster in Thailand is generally lower than the rest of the ASEAN nations due to land masses in the east providing protection from typhoons, and the fact that the country does not lie on a tectonic plate boundary – the interaction between humans and the environment often sees Thailand experience high occurrence of disaster from natural hazards. Floods, drought and landslides disasters are often the result of this complex interaction between humans and their surrounds.
Without doubt, flood forms the greatest natural hazard to Thailand and its citizens, with all regions throughout the country prone to experiencing disaster events and damages due to flooding. There is flash-flooding in the river basins of the south and central deltas, monsoonal floods in Thailand’s coastal regions, and flooding in mountainous areas as the arid land struggles with absorbing the rain caused by unstable mountainous weather systems. High numbers of communities living along the nation’s rivers and coast often feel the full force of these yearly occurrences. Between 1987 to February 2018, Thailand experienced 77 flood events, impacted the nation’s population and economy.
Accelerated by the impact of a changing climate, drought events have become increasingly prevalent in Thailand, particularly in the nation’s central and eastern regions. The months between January and May often see drought conditions become increasingly severe, as communities await alleviation through the onset of the monsoon season. Drought in Thailand has a significant impact on the nation’s agricultural industry, and consequently can affect the country’s food supply and economy. Alongside this, weather anomalies have also resulted in severe drought emergencies. For example, El Niño in 2014 impacted over 20,000 villages in Thailand’s north, having a run-on effect to agricultural production, food supplies and the nation’s economy.
Landslides form a significant hazard for Thailand’s mountainous northern and eastern regions, as the struggle between arid lands due to the dry season and the onset of monsoonal rains plays out. This struggle often results in large and unexpected landslides, at times amplified by the existence of land degradation due to deforestation. With such events occurring in more remote, mountainous locations, vulnerable populations tend to be from rural commu-nities, and impacts are often further accentuated due to poor building practices within these remote villages. 2011 saw Thailand’s worst landslide event, with an entire village engulfed by mudflow, with 110 residents lost their lives due to the unexpected natural disaster.
Written by : William Shea
All information sourced from ‘Viet Nam Disaster Management Reference Handbook: 2015’, as developed by the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CFE-DM).
MONTHLY DISASTER REVIEW AND OUTLOOK
APRIL 2018 | DISASTER MONITORING & ANALYSIS
(DMA) UNIT, AHA CENTRE
GENERAL OVERVIEW OF APRIL 2018
Flood and wind-related disasters had by far the highest number of occurrences during April 2018. ASEAN should remain prepared as changes in seasonal and weather patterns occur, increasing the probability and varying impact of hydro-meteorological disasters. According to the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC), the northern ASEAN region continued through its traditional dry season, while wetter conditions were experienced in the south of the region, as the monsoon through and its associated rain-band settled close to the Equator. Hailstorms were a notable phenomenon last month in Lao PDR and North-Eastern Thailand, resulting in adverse impacts on power lines, infrastructure and agriculture.
22 moderate-to-strong earthquakes (> M 5.0) were observed across Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines during the month, causing minor disruptions locally, but without significant humanitarian impact. One notable event was the M 4.4 earthquake reported in Banjarnegara, Indonesia, with the shallow quake centre and the area’s loose soil conditions causing severe damage to 465 houses (57.8% suffered partial to total collapse).
Technological disasters also took place during April, most notably a range of landfill fires in Myanmar that threatened the health and livelihoods of significant numbers of residents in nearby areas. Significant numbers of people were affected by fumes resulting from these fires, with residents living close to the landfill site experiencing the worst conditions. Starting on the 21st of April, smoke from the fires covered 20 townships across Yangon, with an increased likelihood of adverse health effects – particularly for children and the elderly – experienced by almost 800,000 people within a 30 km radius of the fires.
OUTLOOK FOR MAY-JUNE 2018
The region is expected to gradually transition from the current Northeast Monsoon conditions, to the inter-monsoon conditions in May 2018 – in which low-level winds in the region are generally light and variable in direction, with an increase in shower activities to be expected. Some parts of the northern ASEAN region may continue to experience dry conditions in May 2018, but are likely to ease off with an increase in shower activities as the inter-monsoon period takes hold. For the southern ASEAN region, shower activities are expected over most parts of the area.
For the rest of the April-May-June 2018 season, the northern ASEAN region is likely to experience near-normal rainfall levels, aside from coastal areas of the Andaman Sea and the Philippines, where there is an increased chance of above-normal rainfall. In the southern ASEAN region, slightly below-normal to near-normal rainfall can be expected.
Written by : Mizan Bisri, Qing Yuan Pang
AHA Centre’s estimation is based on data and information shared by National Disaster Management Organisations (NDMOs) and other relevant agencies from ASEAN Member States, international organisations and news agencies. Further information on each recorded-significant disaster, description and details of data and information are available at: http://adinet.ahacentre.org/reports.