I’ve always been amazed at how many natural disasters America gets. Then, since my move to Thailand, I’ve been amazed – but this time amazed at how few natural disasters Thailand experiences. Unlike the US, which has more natural disasters than just about any other place on the planet, Thailand is lucky to be spared most of them. But, if you’re thinking of traveling to Thailand and are the type that worries about natural disasters, put your mind at ease and read on.
Tsunamis – Of course, as the whole world knows, Thailand can experience a tsunami. In December, 2004, it was one of the countries severely impacted by a tsunami wave that killed hundreds of thousands. In Thailand, the official death toll was over 8,000 although, many Thais accused the government of a huge cover-up, saying deaths were much higher due to the presence of thousands of undocumented migrant workers. The 2004 tsunami in Thailand was the worst natural disaster Thailand has ever experienced.
I have been to the affected areas in Thailand many times though, both before and after the tsunami, and would never hesitate to travel there. Tsunamis are just about a once in a lifetime occurrence and now that Thailand has a high-tech tsunami warning system installed, that type of high death toll is highly unlikely to happen again.
Floods – Thailand is one of the many countries in the world that has a tropical climate. Monsoons are normal during the rainy months and, because of this, floods are common throughout Thailand. Cities like Chiang Mai have had severe floods in the last few years, with main streets in the city having to be sandbagged. Bangkok too floods every year although the flooding usually drains within an hour or so of the rain stopping.
Almost every year, several people are killed in Thailand during the rainy season. A few years ago, a group of tourists died after they went into a cave system in the south to shelter from the rain. The cave flooded and they drowned. For most visitors to Thailand, natural disasters like floods are not of paramount urgency however. Simply stay inside when the rain starts, don’t try to drive down flooded streets and use some common sense. It’s not likely flooding in Thailand would overly affect you, particularly in tourist areas.
Cyclones – Thailand does have some cyclones in the south of the country, although not every year. Between 1901 and 2004, according to The Earth Institute at Columbia University, there were 23 cyclones affecting Thailand with 1,468 people killed. Thailand has a heavy fishing economy and most of the deaths were of fisherman or locals who live close to the affected areas. Cyclones are not normal in Thailand and, with modern technology, much less dangerous than they were 100 years ago. For a tourist to Thailand, cyclones should not be a concern.
Drought – Although a monsoon climate, Thailand does also experience another natural disaster – droughts. Particularly in the north of Thailand in the Isaan area, populated by mostly poor subsistence farmers, droughts can be a concern. However, for a tourist a drought isn’t going to affect you. It’s the farmers who suffer the most.
Earthquakes – Thailand doesn’t really have them. We do occasionally get the tail end of extremely mild shakes from an earthquake occurring somewhere like Myanmar but, as Thailand is not on a fault line, earthquakes don’t happen in Thailand. Even the earthquake that resulted in the 2004 tsunami did not occur in Thailand.
Tornadoes – Unlike the US, Thailand does not experience tornadoes. With the violent storms Thailand does have, it’s often surprising to visitors tornadoes don’t occur. But, they don’t.
Volcanoes – Another natural disaster that doesn’t occur in Thailand is volcanic eruption as the country doesn’t have any active volcanoes. Millions of years ago, Phanom Rung and Doi Pha Khok Hin Fu were active volcanoes, but they’ve been extinct for many millennia. Thailand could feasibly be affected if there was ever a large volcanic eruption in a country like Indonesia, as volcanic ash would eventually make its way on winds into Thailand. Overall though, volcanoes are the last thing you should ever worry about on a trip to Thailand.
As you can see, out of the natural disasters mentioned the only ones happening with any frequency in Thailand are floods. With other natural disasters, they either don’t occur in Thailand or with such infrequency (literally once every hundred or thousand years) that they shouldn’t be a worry to any traveler planning a trip to Thailand.
Photo – 2004 tsunami hitting Thailand – David Rydevik/Creative Commons License