As many of you know by now Koh Samui has just been through the worst storm in the region in thirty years. The mainland areas off the cost of Samui were very severly hit and to say the main land areas are disaster areas to me is an understatement. I wont dwell on this in this blog but my heart goes out to the people on the main land who are really going through some difficulties.
So what happened on Samui?
Well the rains came last thursday (March 24th)and they stayed, i can honestly state it never stopped and for a lot of the time it was torrential. Any place facing this volume of water will of course eventually flood. At first the land absorbed much but after the second and third day the land could hold no more. Especially in the built up areas. Nathon, Meanam, Bophut ,Chaweng and Lamai beach roads very quickly flooded with the run off from the mountains and the overspill of the storm drains. Eventually these areas ended up in 1 metre plus of water.
This has been seen occasionally before in the North during the rainy season(November time) and many of the hotels and resorts on the island do have the ability to continue business if not quite as usual. The shops and small canteens put up their sandbags and prepared to rough it out. But the rains kept coming.
Eventually it is my understanding that the rain became so bad that some powerlines collapsed and electric was lost in Bangrak Chaweng and Lamai this was on March 28th/29th. At the same time the airport was closed and ferry service suspended as the rains were so hard. This meant many people were stranded both in Samui hotels and of course at Bangkok airport. Most of the resorts had electric still as they have generators but going out and about meant wading aimlessly through empty cold grey streets with nothing to see but the but shuttered off shops and bars ,and floating debris of uncollected rubbish(now cleared).
The rain kept coming. Eventually parts of the tarmac road started to give way and in some areas of the north ruptured quite badly, the original road was good but the new surfacing just couldn’t take it.
Transport was already hindered by the rain and the tarmac but worse was to come. In Nathon three metres of road was simply washed away. Near Four seasons a large rock/mud slide fell effectively cutting off Nathon from both sides. Between Chaweng and Lamai a large rock formation fell off the mountain and blocked three quarters of the road. In Talling Ngam electricty poles(15) fell and blocked off most of that road bringing the already crawling traffic to a virtual standstill.
All this was happening in the areas mentioned but in the southeast and west of the island it was almost business as usual. Of course with the amount of rain falling we and the resorts/bars in the south had to ensure we kept the areas below ground water free. This was done by the placement of a few carefully placed pumps and hard work from our engineers
For us managers and owners the most important thing was keeping our guests informed about flights and what was happening and of course trying to find things to do when the rain so bad you cant go out anywhere. After all theres only so many times you can work out in the gym , so any videos you can watch or so many spa treatments one can enjoy in a day.Though one guest did manage three full treatments a dayfor three days.
Our reception team spent most of their days on the phone checking on tickets and rescheduling and keeping everyone reassured about the situation and in general all was fine. Restaurants around us stayed open an people met and talked about the situation in the north over a wine or a beer
Flooding here was minimal with nature protecting us from the worst, roads in the main were open as the run off was restricted to a couple of areas. Trees and natural drainage being our best defence and keeping the infrastructure working. Electric stayed on , though this i am sure was by luck rather than design(Samui main power station in the south). And to be honest i didnt realize just how much the north tourism were struggling.
Last night saw the start of the end with the resumption of flights and people being evacuated from Chaweng and Lamai.
What amazed me most was the lack of coverage of what was happening in Samui and then when it came the lack of clarity in the information.
I was shocked to hear from a guest that the travel company had told her yes you can go to Samui “but you will be stuck at the airport and you will starve!” Ive just given her a couple of bicycles so she and her husband can ride around to the local shop -yes its stopped raining!
I was saddened to see that the press didnt get the facts right. THis doesnt detract from the nightmare time the guests in the areas afflicted their holidays were ruined for sure.
Samui never ran out of food, but if you follow the press you hear of empty shops. Only the big supermarkets ran out and only of vegetables, this showed that many long term guests and people living here had bought the fresh vegetables from the easiest source.
We always keep a good stock in our hotel but shop fresh every day. When the rain first came we did increase our fresh stock holding from three days to six. However we went to the local market everyday and bought fresh vegetables , fish and other products without problems. Bread and meats were still delivered every morning with hardly a ripple in times of arrival. The only product we had problems with was bread as flour ran out today. And of course fresh flour stock is arriving tonight.
Transport is working. Today i drove all round the island it took a little longer than normal but the fact island transportation is not crippled. The road washed away is replaced, one of the mountain blocks cleared away, the other blockage we simply go round. The fallen electric poles are replaced and electric is restored all round the island. Ferries are running and fuel ,food and drink are not in short supply. Shops and restaurants are open and everything is getting back to how it was.
And the good news is the sun is returning.
The credit for most of this has to be given to the municipality, the local businesses and more than anything to the people of Samui who have shown great tenacity and a positive approach to the problems faced.
For all the people who visited our lovely island and had to endure this freak of nature i can only simpithise . To those who are worried about coming i can only say dont worry, contact the places and ask them the situation they will tell you openly and honestly how everything is. And to the people of the island who have faced this horrible time and with their usual perseverance have and are making things good i say thank you.