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Prefab shells offer makeshift shelter for flooded Thais

From Liz Neisloss, CNN
updated 9:39 AM EST, Sat November 12, 2011
  • A warren of cement construction materials is now housing for flood victims
  • Residents have lights, TV, plenty of room
  • A swimming hole provides diversion for children

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- In a beehive of once-empty cement forms, a neighborhood in Bangkok's northern reaches has risen from the waters that have inundated much of the rest of the metropolitan area.

In Pathum Thani, dozens of area residents are making home in prefabricated shells intended for use in the construction of Bangkok's elevated skyway. The company that owns the forms has told their new occupants they can stay, and it's letting them tap into electric lines, so there's light and television.

Most of the forms' new residents are from the same flood-ravaged community a short boat ride away. Some floated with their most prized possessions to their temporary homes here. Six-year-old Fai says she is content with her dry space. She and her family were flooded out of a shelter and then another home before moving here.

Next door, in the hive of cement shells, live Jaew and her family of five.

"I own a small shop and when it started to flood, I moved all my goods to my house," she said. "Then, a few days later, my house got flooded. And when the water was up to my neck, we moved here."

Jaew took CNN to see her home, which is a short boat ride away -- down a river that was once a walkway. Inside her house, her birds appeared safe and some of her furniture was drying. But she had no immediate plans to return. Since the flood, she said, snakes and a crocodile have been spotted nearby.

For most residents of the cement forms, there is no work and no money coming in. Volunteers come from Bangkok University each day to give them food, Jaew said. "And sometimes local officials bring us dry food and water."

Residents said they have chosen to stay in the cement confines rather than move into government shelters because they have more space and can keep an eye on their valuables. And, more importantly, because they are with their community. And so, in the chaos that has accompanied the floods, there is the comfort of familiar faces.

Because area schools have been closed for more than a month, children have found themselves with plenty of free time. Some have begun using the rank floodwaters as a swimming pool. Parents say they are worried about the dirty water, but have given up trying to keep the children out.

Though people said they expect to return home when the waters recede, some said they don't expect that to happen for a few more weeks.

Floods in Thailand have killed more than 500 people since July, affecting about a third of the nation's 77 provinces.

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