Severe flooding hit Mae Tao Clinic on Monday 29th July, forcing us to evacuate the clinic for the first time in our 24-year history.
Days of non-stop heavy rain in Mae Sot and the surrounding areas caused water levels to inch dangerously higher and higher over Sunday evening. MTC staff moved valuable equipment and supplies off of the floors on Sunday night and the following morning as water started seeping into offices and wards. As the rains continued, the district was forced to release water from the nearby dam on Monday morning. Main roads in Mae Sot soon turned into fast-flowing rivers and the canal next to the clinic compound suddenly broke its banks, causing the water to rise at least a foot higher in just an hour. The water level rose to around 5ft in some parts of the clinic.
Staff acted quickly by moving medicines and supplies from the pharmacy, which had swiftly flooded, leaving boxes on the lower shelves waterlogged and some items inside damaged. Equipment and important files were moved onto desks while midwives continued to deliver babies while knee-deep in water.
Once proper sanitation and hygiene for patients and staff became a significant concern, an instant decision was made to evacuate to CDC school. Transportation of around 200 patients and carers, essential supplies and equipment, plus the setting up of each department in various classrooms was managed smoothly in around three hours. Three babies were born at CDC just that night in a make-shift delivery room while all other critical services continued. Our partner, IRC, and other NGOs assisted with logistics and emergency supplies, ensuring that everyone was provided with food, water and other essentials.
Most of the water receded by the next morning, leaving staff the immense task of clearing up the debris and mud. Broken desks and chairs lay scattered around the compound while shredded plastic bags clung to tree branches and the children’s climbing frame. Pharmaceutical supplies lay in bags and boxes at our training centre, where they were taken after rescuing them from the floods. Dozens of volunteers from CDC and Back Pack helped pharmacy staff to sort dry the supplies. On the plus side, the training centre land onto which MTC will be moving in a couple of years, was unaffected by the floods, giving us an additional reason to move our facilities as soon as possible.
Despite the mammoth clean-up at MTC and the sudden evacuation, outpatient services resumed on Tuesday and critical inpatient care continued as usual, albeit in classrooms. Wards were mopped out quickly and thoroughly enough that inpatients began to move back by Wednesday evening. By Thursday afternoon, MTC was operating as normal, although staff were still busy assessing damage to supplies and furniture.
Although MTC may have made a relatively smooth recovery from the flood, villagers in Karen state, Burma, have not been as fortunate. Flood waters remain high and damage to homes is far greater. Almost 10,000 people remain displaced in 24 temporary relief camps. On Thursday and Friday, MTC medics travelled to temporary relief shelters across the border to give vital medical assistance as part of the Emergency Assistance and Relief Team (EART) in collaboration with other local organisations providing relief. As many of these people have lost their belongings and their homes, it is believed that the relief efforts will continue over the next few weeks.
Further updates and pictures from the floods can be found on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/maetaoclinic