I have not had hands on experience in a disaster situation but I was fortunate to be part of a delegation that went to Southeast Asia to inform people within this region of the Millennium Development goals and about UN initiatives. While I was in Cambodia I got to learn about the communities that have been there for hundreds of years who have adapted to the monsoon seasons and mass flooding that occurs within the region. Since I have already discussed my experiences in Bosnia I Herzegovina I thought this would be interesting since they have learned to respond and adapt to the natural events that occur annually.
“For most of the year the lake near Siem Reap, Cambodia is fairly small, around one meter deep and with an area of 2,700 square km. During the monsoon season, however, the Tonle Sap River which connects the lake with the Mekong River reverses its flow. Water is pushed up from the Mekong into the lake, increasing its area to 16,000 square km and its depth to up to nine meters, flooding nearby fields and forests.” (Wikipedia)
It was very interesting to see the region as I flew into the Siem Reap International Airport. You can see the tops of trees in the water below and as you came over areas that had shallow water you can begin to make out road systems and fence lines and finally into an area that did not have flooding. What is interesting about the population of this region is that many people have designed there homes to float as the water rises each year and have developed floating markets, farms and schools in the area. As the waters rise they are able to pull their homes closer to land or in rows that look like neighborhoods. There are a few people that have the luxury of living on areas that do not flood, while others live in houses that are on stilts and then there are a number of people that even relocate their homes a few times a year. These people have temporary thatched huts that can be dismantled and moved on the back of a truck to a more suitable location. Children are also required to learn how to swim before attending classes and the school building itself may not even be in the same place it was the day before. I believe that the Cambodian people within these communities have responded accordingly to the monsoons that happen in the region.
Wikipedia: Tonle Sap. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonle_Sap. February 2009.