Aid organizations said yesterday that emergency relief distributions were continuing throughout the areas affected by Typhoon Ketsana, as flood water levels remained high and the number of families driven from their homes slowly continues to grow as more displaced people are located.
Meanwhile, government officials said the typhoon’s official death toll had risen to 17 people and expressed their concern over the damage to tens of thousands of hectares of flooded farmland as rice fields sustained prolonged inundation.
Keo Vy, deputy information director at the government’s National Committee for Disaster Management, said the death toll had risen from 15 to 17 people when it was discovered that a man and his son drowned after their boat capsized when the typhoon hit Rolea Ba’ier district in Kompong Chhnang province on Sept 30.
Oxfam country lead Francis Perez said Oxfam’s assessment of the number of displaced families still stood at around 14,000 families in the provinces of Kompong Thom, Kratie and Preah Vihear, but he added that in Stung Treng province’s Stung Treng district alone an additional 250 families who had fled their homes had been located.
Oxfam has not been able to extend aid to households in Stung Treng province, Mr Perez said, adding that among some of the groups in the province there was a reported outbreak of malaria.
“In some areas, where it is still raining, we are only able to start delivery [today]. So there are still people without shelter,” he said. Mr Perez said floodwaters were slowly receding, adding this is good for farmers but would hamper aid distribution, as boats could no longer be used and many areas would end up mired in deep mud.
He said Oxfam would distribute aid to 5,000 families over the coming days, providing items such as plastic sheets for shelter, water filters, mosquito nets and sleeping mats.
Stung Treng Provincial Deputy Governor Pauk Sam En said Mekong River water levels had increased Sunday and Stung Treng town had been partially flooded, while Sesan district had been hard hit and 70 families had been displaced. “It is flooded in some parts of Stung Treng town, I cannot drive my car,” he added.
Uy Sam Ath, director of disaster management for the Cambodian Red Cross, said his organization had identified another 800 families driven from their homes by floods in Oddar Meanchey province. “Stung Treng, Ratanakkiri, Mondolkiri and Oddar Meanchey province are now considered priority areas for emergency aid because people were last removed from their homes by the rains,” he said.
Dr Sam Ath said the national CRC had not been able to provide support in these provinces yet, adding that CRC estimated that more than 2,500 families were displaced in these areas.
Provincial officials from Kompong Thom, Stung Treng, Ratanakkiri, Preah Vihear and Kratie said yesterday that in total more than 38,000 hectares were flooded in those five provinces, with estimates of the amount of crop damaged ranging from 20 to 90 percent in different provinces. Around 10,000 hectares of inundated farmland was located in Kompong Thom’s Sandan district alone, said District Governor Sim Vanna.
Kompong Thom Provincial Governor Chhum Chhorn said: “We have no hope we can harvest those rice fields because of the flood. The villagers pulled out some seedlings and they were rotten. “
“We worry about a food shortage among families whose land is affected by the floods,” he said, adding there would not be enough rain during the remainder of the year to replant the fields.
Peong Trida, director of Preah Vihear provincial agriculture department, said: “If the flood continues for more than 10 days it will damage the rice, but if it is flooded less than a week it is good for the plants.” He noted however that nearly 3,000 hectares of paddy in the province had already been inundated for seven days. He added that provincial authorities were already arranging rice seed distributions for farmers in affected areas.
Ratanakkiri Provincial Governor Pao Ham Phan said authorities were very concerned about the effects of flooding on farmers in his province. “We worry about the rice yield this year because many thousands of hectares are flooded…. It is not easy to replant because the [ethnic minority] villagers have no experience with replanting and there is not enough rain [over the rest of year] for the rice,” he said, referring to dry-land rice grown by the province’s indigenous minorities.
Nhim Vanda, first vice chairman of the NCDM, said he could not yet estimate the number of displaced families and the total damage caused by the storm. “We are preparing the report. Then we will release the report after Prime Minister Hun Sen has seen it. It will be the most accurate report, it will also survey the costs of the damage,” Mr Vanda said.