UBON RATCHATHANI — Nearly a month of flooding in the Isaan region has claimed 33 lives, including that of a rescue volunteer, the disaster department said Monday.

Downpour from the Podul and Kajiki storms has affected more than 418,000 people in 32 provinces, according to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation. Four provinces— namely Ubon Ratchathani, Yasothon, Roi Et, and Sisaket—are still in critical condition.

On Saturday, volunteer Damrongsak Jeadprakhon died from a lung infection contracted while helping flood victims.

“I’d like to express my condolences to Damrongsak Jeadprakhon, a volunteer who gave his life while on duty in Ubon Ratchathani,” Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Sunday. “Thank you for your sacrifice for your fellow Thais.”

Anutin said the government will support Damrongsak’s family.

Damrongsak, who served in a volunteer group stationed in Buriram, went down to help the flooded province of Ubon Ratchathani in early September before contracting the infection. He died 5:20am Saturday at Buriram Hospital after five days of bedrest.

Of the 33 deaths, 29 were in the Isaan region.

Flooding Sept. 16, 2019 in Ubon Ratchathani.

Rather than state action, public awareness of flooding in the province was largely raised through social media, which drew a crowd of volunteers.

Actor Bin Bunluerit, who has volunteered in Ubon Ratchathani and regularly posted photos of the flooding situation, has collected more than 50 million baht in donations for the province as of Monday.

“Our group was eating somtam and sticky rice when we saw a man sitting sadly in a boat. I thought he must be hungry, so I gave him some rice and he ate it all, plain,” Bin said.

Bin began accepting donations on Saturday. He said that 1,000 baht would be distributed to 1,000 households from every 1 million baht.

“I’m not throwing shade at the government, but I want to wake it up. What I saw made me sick. I thought of the money that the government uses to go shopping. It should be used to help the people of Ubon Ratchathani instead,” Bin said Monday.

On Monday, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s Office, Naruemon Pinyosantiwat, said that families with farms or houses destroyed from flooding are eligible for a payout of 50,000 baht per household. She said the government will work transparently to implement the policy.

“The Prime Minister said that every department has to be very strict about this. There must be no complaints of corruption,” she said.

PM Prayuth Chan-ocha has expressed anger at criticism being directed at his government. During a speech to civil servants at Impact Arena this morning, he veered off script to insist that the government is doing everything it can to help. He also said he’s been working on water management and flood prevention systems for the past five years.

“Flood problems are natural disasters, but they are blaming the government,” Prayuth said. “They scold us everyday and on every issue.”

On Monday, a group of volunteers from Na Kae district in Nakhon Phanom province to the north of Ubon Ratchathani brought food and other supplies to aid their neighbors.

The volunteers, including Na Kae district chief Sri Sriphuttarin, said they wanted to help since they know the experience of being flooded – much of the farmland in their province was flooded for two months in 2017.

Ubon Floods: Death Toll Reaches 33, Including Rescue Worker
Volunteers from Na Kae, Nakhon Phanom give a thumbs-up Sept. 16, 2019 in Ubon Ratchathani.

Flooding in the Isaan province of Roi Et is so high that locals of Thung Khao Luang District are using boats as transport. Saotongtong Srisura, headman of Wang-on Village, says it’s been flooding since Aug. 29, when the Chi River spilled its banks.

Ubon Floods: Death Toll Reaches 33, Including Rescue Worker
Rescue workers ride boats Sept. 15, 2019 in Wang-on Village in Roi Et province.

It’s not just Isaan and the north that’s being hit by deluges. Koh Chang in Trang suffered from an entire day of flooding Sunday that damaged houses and cut off bridges. Disaster officials had to pick up stranded locals and tourists.

Toh, a 49-year-old male elephant, also died on the island Sunday when he was found drowned and tied to a tree. His owner said he had to tie Toh there due to musth.

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