14,000 Families Displaced After Ketsana, Oxfam Says

As the floods caused by Ty­phoon Ketsana slowly started to recede in parts of Cambodia over the weekend, international aid organization Oxfam reported that at least 14,000 families in three provinces had been driven from their homes by the storm. The Cambodian Red Cross yesterday gave a much lower estimate, however, stating that it has calculated that at least 4,700 families were displaced across five provinces by the typhoon’s destruction.

Oxfam also believes that some 30,000 hectares of farmland were damaged by the storm.

Uy Sam Ath, director of disaster management at the Cambodian Red Cross, said that based on CRC field data from Friday and Saturday his organization estimated 4,737 families in the five provinces were displaced by the typhoon.

Dr Sam Ath said more than 2,000 families in Preah Vihear province were forced to find higher ground because of flooding, while in Ratanakkiri province 1,026 families were displaced, and 1,007 families in the four worst-affected districts of Kompong Thom had fled their homes.

Other affected provinces include Mondolkiri, with 404 evacuated families, and Stung Treng, where around 300 families were displaced, he said, adding that the CRC lacked data on Kompong Cham and Kratie provinces.

But Oxfam country lead Francis Perez said that according to his organization’s field reports from Sunday more than 14,000 families were forced to leave their home in the provinces of Kompong Thom, Preah Vihear and Kratie province because of the typhoon, adding that he was still waiting for field reports from Stung Treng province.

“In Kompong Thom province more than 10,000 families were displaced,” Mr Perez said, adding water levels remained high in the province.

He said that as the scale of the disaster became clear during the weekend the number of evacuated families ran higher than anticipated by Oxfam. “Initially we expected 10,000 families in total to be displaced, this [number] was exceeded in Kompong Thom alone,” Mr Perez said.

The floods damaged around 30,000 hectares of rice and other crops Oxfam field reports found, he said. “Many of the crops were destroyed,” Mr Perez said, adding that many households had lost cattle or livestock had become ill because of the flooding.

“We are looking at prolonged hunger periods. Harvests in those areas will not come in November,” Mr Perez said, adding that Oxfam was looking at the possibility of providing seeds and possibly financial support to help farmers with replanting their fields.

“We will continue emergency assistance…. We expect in the next week to start making plans for recovery and rehabilitation,” Mr Perez said, adding Oxfam had started a global appeal for the disasters that hit East Asia-Typhoon Ketsana and the earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia-which could bring more aid to those affected in Cambodia.

In a news release issued Sunday, Oxfam announced it had provided emergency support in coordination with national and local authorities, distributing 2,500 plastic sheets for shelter, 2,500 water filters, 3,000 mosquito nets and 500 sleeping mats.

Dr Sam Ath of the CRC said water levels have stabilized or are receding in the five provinces from which had received reports, except for Stung Treng province, where flood levels in the districts of Sesan and Stung Treng had risen over the weekend.

“Now the water is receding, not increasing. If there is no rain the situation will be better,” he said, adding the emergency phase had ended and there were no more evacuations.

“[W]e now have to follow up on living conditions, food shortage, water sanitation, water purification, and then clean the open wells, give tools to rebuild the house,” he said.

During the relief effort the central CRC office alone had distributed more than 3,000 emergency kits to families, containing items such as plastic sheets, rice, canned fish, blankets and a mosquito net, Dr Sam Ath added.

Kompong Thom Provincial Governor Chhun Chhorn said he thought that Oxfam’s estimates of the number of families could be true, but said he could not confirm the numbers. He added that according to his provincial officers the typhoon had damaged 17,000 hectares of farmland and destroyed 400 houses in the province.

“I request the Red Cross and all other aid organizations and the foreign countries to help us,” Mr Chhhorn said, adding that water levels in the Stung Sen river, which runs through Kompong Thom province, were still high and had risen a meter between Saturday and Sunday.

Nhim Vanda, first vice chairman of the government’s National Committee for Disaster Management, said he could not give estimates of the total number of families displaced and of the damage to farmland as he was busy meeting local authorities in Kratie province yesterday.

“The flooding is slowly coming down and the provincial authorities and the provincial Red Cross have helped them already,” Mr Vanda added before hanging up the telephone.


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