Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport provides shelter to flood victims

Decommissioned airports often become home to aviation unrelated occupancies as seen for example with Hong Kong’s famous old airport Kai Tak, which at one point was being used as a concert venue. In other times such airports can become a much needed infrastructure for humanitarian relief efforts as we have seen recently in the example of Thailand’s Don Mueang International Airport.

After almost 100 since the first flight took off, in 2006, Don Mueang International Airport (IATA: DMK) closed following the opening of the newly built Suvarnabhumi Airport (IATA: BKK). One year later, the airport located north of the Thai capital Bangkok was reopened for some domestic flights. Today, however, the airport serves an entirely different purpose, albeit (hopefully) only temporarily: it provides shelter to hundreds of people affected by Thailand’s worst floods in five decades. According to a CNN blog, the airport has also been used as the home of the flood relief operation command.

The airport has already a history of being used for other purposes other than commercial flights. In 1914 it was officially opened as a Royal Thai Air Force base and during the Vietnam War, Don Muang was a major command and logistics hub of the United States Air Force. Commercial aviation began in 1924 with the arrival of a KLM aircraft. Interestingly some people still refer to Don Mueang Airport with its former IATA code BKK which is now officially associated with the new Suvarnabhumi Airport. Don Mueang, which was spelled “Don Muang” now retains the three letter code DMK.

As for the devastating floods that currently threaten a large part of Thailand,they originate from the Chao Phraya and the Mekong River basin and began in late July. So far the floods have caused 307 reported deaths with over 2.3 million people being affected. Wikipedia claims the flooding has inundated about six million hectares of land, over 300,000 hectares of which is farmland, in fifty-eight provinces, from Chiang Mai in the North to parts of the capital city of Bangkok near the mouth of the Chao Phraya. It has been described as “the worst flooding yet in terms of the amount of water and people affected”.

As the situation in Thailand is changing rapidly, reports now even suggest that Don Mueang Airport is threatened by the water and that people were told to move to higher ground in order to escape the water. Thousands of people rely on the government to provide them with temporary accommodation after having had to leave their own homes.

Be sure to check with your travel agent or airline before travelling to Bangkok and other parts in Thailand. CNN provides up-to-date travel information for Bangkok and Thailand through their service CNNGo.

Update: According to a CNN report, the CEO of Nok Air announced the airline is canceling flights in and out of Don Muang Airport until October 31 due to the “flood crisis.” In the same report it was said that Pate Sarasin, CEO of Nok Air, posted a Twitter message saying “the water level is now at a critical area at the northern part of the runway.”

Update 2: An ABC report now quotes authorities who said the terminal had become too crowded and thousands of people displaced there would be relocated. The airport is now also closed for all commercial flights.

[The feature picture is a LateDeparture composition derived from Flickr photos by mikiane and nimbooSome rights reserved]