By Damir Sagolj
In the beginning it was business as usual. Children played in the water, women moved around on makeshift rafts and people ignored the rising water from the north of Thailand. There were lots of smiling faces and very few worried ones. Looking from the outside, one could say people were having fun and soon all would be forgotten.
Then, suddenly it was not fun any more. As the murky water rose and moved towards the capital it was obvious the scale of this year’s floods would be something very few expected. The land of smiles turned into the land of worry, then anger.
Pictures of destruction and despair were on every corner, the joy and smiling faces had begun to fade-out. We witnessed catastrophe and damage on a scale that would be difficult to calculate. The floods in Thailand occur every year and they hit the same provinces at about the same time. People know what to expect, and some have even use to it. But, what happened in the past two months left everyone totally shocked.
At the peak of the disaster, a third of the country was under water; a third! From the roads and elevated highways it looked bad but the truth was only revealed once we had a chance to fly over the enormous mass of water with an end nowhere to be seen.
The floods were on two levels – everything outside Bangkok and the water in the capital. As the unimaginable become reality and the floodwater gushed past suburbs towards the city – the stories and our pictures had changed. The smiles and those victory signs people flash all the time (photographers from the Middle East to Asia “love” it so much) disappeared into muddy and toxic water. What remained was a serious struggle to minimize the effect of biggest floods in over half a century in Thailand.