Damage From Flooding Strains Ferry Service

punhea leu district, Kandal province – On normal days, it takes Heng Hay about five hours to commute back and forth be­tween Phnom Penh and his Prey Veng home.

Wednesday was not a normal day. As a full day passed, he sat, waiting for the ferry to cross the Tonle Sap River. He had small hopes of getting across.

“I have been waiting to get a ferry since early this morning. I need to go for hundreds of more kilometers. But now I’m spending all the time here,” he said as he sat amidst the thousands of cars waiting at Prek Kdam ferry crossing.

Although floods come each season in Cambodia, this year the Prek Kdam ferry crossing seemed to have caught the brunt of it after a bridge collapsed Tuesday night on nearby Route 6, forcing anyone headed to or from Kompong Thom, Kompong Cham or Siem Reap to use the ferry as a detour.

A villager from Kanh Chreach district, Heng Hay, 50, had come to Phnom Penh to visit relatives a few days before by National Road 14. But that route was closed, also cut in several places by the floods.

At 6 pm Wednesday evening, more than 2,000 cars and trucks were jammed for more than 3 km, and thousands of travelers were blocked up on both sides of the river. Those discouraged by the wait who tried to turn around only made the jam worse. So people by the thousands sat.

And waited. Many slept in their cars. Others got out and were sitting in the nearby walkways, eating, dozing and chatting.

Officials at the crossing could only counsel patience.

“I know the passengers are upset with us for the slow job. The provincial officials of Kandal will protect these people from looting. And our ferry officer will work without sleep,” Undersecretary of State for the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation Uk Chan said from the scene.

Even so, many nerves seemed frayed.

“No, no. You can not go by this direction!” one police officer shouted at a driver amidst the blare of horns and thick fumes of exhaust. “Please, turn up there to get to Phnom Penh.”

Travelers were upset. Thou Nuon, 74, had been sitting in a crowded taxi for more than 10 hours without moving.

“I cannot go anywhere else for food,” he said. “I am very hungry, but I am afraid the taxi will leave me alone here.”

Others said they felt equally trapped.

“I am anxiously waiting to get across. It is already dark now,” said Nut Sophat, 42, a taxi driver en route to Siem Reap with a car full of passengers, including young children.

Sophat said he had already paid his 11,000 riel (about $2.82) Wednesday morning to cross the river, but his car sat without moving all day. Even on a good day, the drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is 11 hours, he said.

“I will drive overnight, but I am very concerned for the kids’ safety, sitting there in the back,” Nut Sophat said.

The two children, who were brothers, seemed to be the only ones unfazed by the delay. “I won’t mind. We will not sleep,” one of the boys said, giggling.

Heng Hay was not so upbeat. “I might get across here before sunset,” he said, sighing. “But I still cannot get home tonight.”


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