|Unorthodox transport to deal with the flooding in Ayutthaya, Thailand [GALLO/GETTY]|
Across the whole of Southeast Asia the monsoon rains of 2011 have been truly exceptional. Unprecedented rainfall in some areas has brought flooding unlike anything seen in several generations. There are, however, signs of improvement as the rains, at long last, look like easing off.
In Thailand, where flooding is the worst in 50 years, the monsoon is reported to have claimed the lives of more than 300 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage. Whilst the capital, Bangkok, remains under threat from flooding as a result of swollen rivers and under-strain dams, the good news is that the rains are definitely easing.
Yet to suggest the monsoon rains in the whole region are over would be premature. Heavy showers continue to hit central and southern Vietnam where the death toll from floods, this year, is at least 55 and damage is estimated at nearly $US60 million.
Although the monsoon should now be easing in the north of the country, central and southern parts are likely to see further torrential showers. Indeed, for Da Nang in central Vietnam, October is the wettest month of the year, with an average rainfall of 530 millimetres.
Cambodia, too, has experienced its worst flooding in a decade. More than 245 people have died and at least 245,000 families have seen their houses and lands submerged by floodwater.
The reported death toll in Laos is much lower at around 30 but it is likely that at least 430,000 people have been affected.
Unfortunately it is too early to predict any significant easing of the monsoon rains over Cambodia and Laos. Weather statistics would tend to suggest an improvement but the exceptional nature of this year’s monsoon would make any prediction based on statistics highly unreliable.