Southeast Asia: The Great Floods of 2011

This post is part of our special coverage on Refugees.

Storms battered the Southeast Asian region in 2011, which caused heavy flooding in many countries, displaced thousands of residents and workers, destroyed millions worth of agricultural crops, and killed more than 2,000 people. Global Voices was able to report the impact of some of these flood disasters in the past year.


Heavy rains inundated many provinces of Thailand for several months. The flooding was the worst to hit the country in the past 50 years. Dams overflowed, industrial estates were flooded, and thousands of residents were trapped in their homes. Many towns, including parts of Bangkok, became ‘waterworlds’ for several weeks.

Flooded temple. Photo from Pailin C

Flooded temple. Photo from Pailin C

Global Voices featured the mapping tools and other disaster monitoring platforms used during the floods. We also highlighted the role of social media in spreading awareness, but also confusion, during the disaster, as well as the inventive ways of people as they coped with the floods.

Saksith Saiyasombut recalls the early signs of this flooding disaster:


This is the current death toll of what has been described as the “worst floods in decades“. Floods are an annual occurrence in Thailand during the rainy season. When the water was sweeping through Chiang Mai already back in late September, this natural disaster was somehow going to be different. But it took some considerable time, despite the unprecedented damage it has created in Ayutthaya to the ancient temples and the vital industrial parks, until the capital was drowned in fear of what was to come.

This animated video about the Thailand flooding went viral meanwhile:


Next to Thailand, the Philippines suffered the most from flooding. But the number of casualties is higher in the Philippines. A state of national calamity was declared by the president after tropical storm Sendong (international name: Washi) devastated many parts of north Mindanao Island, located in the southern part of the country.

According to the government, more than 1,400 people died and 1,000 more are still missing after Sendong triggered flashfloods in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan last month.

Flood victims have utilized Facebook to help search for their missing loved ones. Photos and profiles of missing relatives and friends continue to be posted online. Blogs and social media networks have also been used to mobilize assistance for relief operations.

An unprecedented flooding disaster also hit Davao City last June. Many were unprepared when the floods swept the town since Davao is located in a supposedly typhoon-free zone.

Overview of flood impact. Photo from Tony Alejo


While Thailand’s flooding nightmare was widely reported in the global news, Cambodia’s flooding woes were not highlighted. But the flooding which hit the country last year was the worst in a decade.

Last October, Global Voices reported the extent of flood damage in Cambodia: 400,000 hectares of rice paddies were flooded, over 250,000 hectares of rice crops were completely lost, 3,000 kilometers of road infrastructures were destroyed, 300-400 kilometers of dams were damaged, over 247 were killed, more than 1,000 schools were flooded, the estimated loss could cost Cambodia over $400 million.

But aside from flood warnings, authorities and media networks in Cambodia and Thailand also published crocodile alerts to remind the people to watch out for crocodiles which escaped from flooded parks and farms.

Meanwhile, Singapore also experienced some flooding last year but authorities used the word ‘ponding’ instead of flooding to describe the situation in the city.

Aside from floods, there were other natural disasters that hit the region. A 6.8 earthquake hit northeast Myanmar on March 24 which was felt in nearby Thailand and as far away as Vietnam and China. The quake killed at least 70 people and destroyed more than 240 buildings in Myanmar alone.

Flood hashtags: #thaiflood, #bkkflood, #thaifloodeng, #sendong, #prayformindanao

This post is part of our special coverage on Refugees.

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