Ayutthaya is a city of 55,000 people, 85 km (53 miles) north of the capital Bangkok. Sometimes called ‘the Venice of the East’, it is located on the junction of three rivers. Historically, Thailand was hit by major floods every four to five years; but, in recent years, they have become an annual event. Previously, the floods struck Ayutthaya in October but this year they arrived at the end of August. The worst hit areas of the city were those close to the Chao Phraya river and the volume of water so large that it needed more than two months to recede fully.
To put their aid to best effect, the volunteers decided to concentrate their efforts on Banplab village in Bang Pa In county, where the floods inundated the homes of more than 2,400 people; 80 per cent of them are Moslem. The volunteers decided to provide cooked food, so that they would feel the warmth of their love.
On September 15, the volunteers made an inspection tour of the village and found the flooding to be extremely serious, with the residents having to wade through water when they left their homes and hygienic conditions poor. They made a special application to the government’s Drug Administration to distribute medical kits that included anti-fungal drugs, paracetamol, stomach medicine and povidone-iodine. Volunteer Jin Rong-gang said: “the flood waters reached the roof of their first floor, as high as two metres. To leave their homes, the residents had to rely on boats, so finding food had become very difficult.”
On September 24, the volunteers returned to the flooded area, joined by teachers and students from Dhurakij Pundit University of Bangkok who were on holiday. In addition, 14 doctors and nurses from Ayutthaya also came to help cook the food; they encountered Tzu Chi last year when it was carrying out disaster relief. A nurse named Nopphawan said: “My home was not inundated. But, when I saw how hard it was for the flood victims, I felt very uncomfortable. Although we have no money, we can contribute our labor and help them.” The volunteers took into account the fact that the victims were mostly Muslim. To set their hearts at ease, they used only ingredients that were in accordance with Halal regulations. During the distribution, they had to use boats to reach those houses where the water level was high; local volunteers rowed the boats. For homes that were closer to the road, the volunteers used simple wooden planks to enter and leave.
One recipient was 54-year-old Nibo and his family of nine people; because the floods have lasted a long time, the second floor of his home is full of furniture. “The flooding has lasted more than a month,” he said. “Everything is inconvenient. We moved our clothes cabinet and other furniture to the second floor. We have to crowd below the eaves to find space for everyone.” For a large family like his, the flooding has made life extremely difficult.
That day the volunteers distributed 1,699 cooked meals and 1,197 evening meals, reaching a total of 2,896 families, giving them the strength to overcome their adversity and help them return to a normal life as soon as possible.
*From September 24th to 30th, Tzu Chi Foundation Phillipines has provided over 20 thousand hot meals for the flood victims.
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